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X97.49.1 Harp


Object Name: Harp
Place of Origin: Democratic Republic of the Congo
Cultural Group: Zande peoples
Materials Used: Wood and animal hide
Dimensions: L: 68.0 cm (L: 26.7 in)
Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of Dr. Richard and Jan Baum. X97.49.1

Zande and Mangbetu harps can be distinguished by the position of of the tuning keys on the neck of the harp: Zande harps have the keys on the left of the neck while Mangbetu ones have the keys on the right. Harps have a longer history among the Zande than their Magbetu neighbors, who adopted them in the late nineteenth century. While the Zande continue to use harps, they have disappeared from Mangbetu musical ensembles. Among the Zande, troubadours play harps. An early European account records one harp performer who played for twenty-four hours without stopping except to drink and eat. Because Zande musicians depend on their dress and harp to draw an audience, the harps are beautifully decorated. Harps once owned by Mangbetu court musicians incorporate valuable materials such as ivory or elaborate carvings. On many Mangbetu harps, the neck is the full figure of a woman. Scholars suggest that figurative sculpture became pronounced early in the colonial period. Mangbetu elders today claim that figures like this represent Queen Nenzima, who was chief adviser to four kings between 1875 and 1926.

Source: DjeDje, J. C. (1999). “Turn Up the Volume! A Celebration of African Music”, Los Angeles: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History. page 297

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