Moru Misa rattle

Moru Misa rattle
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan] Western Equatoria ?Lui ?Lanyi
Cultural Group:
Moru Misa
Date Made:
By 1979
Gourd Plant , Plant Seed , Wax , Plant Leaf
Hollowed? , Dried , Perforated , Plugged
L = 224, body diam = 104.7 x 101.2, upper handle diam = 31.5, lower diam = 15.5, W of plug = 23 mm [RTS 2/9/2005].
76.2 g
Local Name:
Other Owners:
Gift from Deborah to Patti Langton, on 5th February 1979; collected as part of the British Institute in Eastern Africa's Expedition to the Southern Sudan [RTS 14/5/2004].
Field Collector:
Patti Langton
PRM Source:
Patti Langton
Purchased 1979
Collected Date:
5 February 1979
Vessel rattle, made from a small gourd plant that has been dried. This has a spherical body and narrow tapering neck with rounded end that serves as the instrument's handle. The exterior of the gourd is a smooth yellowish orange colour (Pantone 146C). The interior has been filled with a number of medium-sized seeds, supposedly sorghum, inserted through a circular hole cut into the centre of the top. This has been blocked up with a solid lump of grayish brown beeswax, mixed with leaves (Pantone Cool Gray 11C), that stands slightly proud of the surface. The rattle is compete and intact, and has a weight of 76.2 grams. It is 224 mm long, with a body diameter of 104.7 by 101.2 mm, an upper handle diameter of 31.5 mm and a lower handle diameter of 15.5 mm; the plugged area measures 23 mm across.

Tis rattle was given by a woman called Deborah to Patti Langton, on 5th February 1979; Deborah had been one of their sources of information about the Moru Misa and their culture; the exact place of transfer is not stated, but was probably at either Lui or Lanyi. Langton was director of the British Institute in Eastern Africa's Expedition to the Southern Sudan.

The Moru Misa name for this rattle is
gara, and it is used by women in church or at dances, which at that time were held on Friday nights, with men dancing in an outer circle and women dancing in an inner circle. For similar rattles used by the Acholi, see 1942.1.425-6 and 1970.13.23. Trowell and Wachsmann discuss gourd rattles in nearby Uganda: "These are ubiquitous; they occupy a prominent place in magico-religious ceremonial and are used in many dances. As ritual practices decrease the rattles become rare, and it is already becoming difficult to secure specimens or at least to see them in action. The narrow neck of the calabash serves as a handle and the spherical part as the rattling vessel proper; the gourd is filled with stones or seeds. A normal length of the whole instrument is between twenty and thirty cm ... a hole in the apex of the gourd, where stones or seeds have been inserted, is sewn up carefully with a pattern of string (Acholi)..." (M. Trowell & K.P. Wachsmann, 1953, Tribal Crafts of Uganda, p. 322 and pl. 74A1, for a Lango example). This example differs in its approach, as the hole has been closed with a solid plug rather than being sewn shut. Langton records that the Moru Misa would sometimes insert the seeds via the gourd 'handle', and seal it up with cassava leaves.

Rachael Sparks 2/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book Entry [p. 185] - 1979.20 (.1 - 206) P[urchase] MISS PATTI LANGTON, DEPT. of ETHNOLOGY & PREHISTORY, OXFORD. Collection made by Patti Langton during the British Institute in East Africa's expedition to the Southern Sudan; Jan. - April 1979. The collection was made in three culture areas during the dry season. The amount paid for each object is listed if the information is known. In Jan. 1979 £1 is equivalent to 95 piastres (pt.) Sudanese. This documentation is based largely upon Patti's own list of objects and her notes on these. Sometimes objects included in the Pitt Rivers alottment of the collection do not appear on her list and have been added here. See Related Documents file as well. [pp 185 - 186] 1979.20.1 - 42 SOUTHERN SUDAN the MORU MISA The Moru Misa live about 100 miles west of Juba, the capital of the Southern Sudan. Part of the collection was made in Lui, a small town which has had extensive church and missionary activity over the past 50 years (excluding the period of civil war) and which now boasts a church, a hospital and a number of schools. The rest of the Moru Misa collection was made at Lanyi, 15 miles away, where the paramount chief of the area, Chief Elinama, arranged for people to bring artifacts for us to buy. Although money is known to the Moru, its use is limited and the concept of selling belongings is foreign to them. Hence the low prices and the relatively small number of artefacts. The Moru Misa are a geographical section of the Moru people. The Moru practice agriculture for subsistence; they do not keep cattle any longer. [p. 188] 1979.20.11 - Gara , women's dance rattle, a calabash filled with sorghum seeds. Used by women in church or in dances, held these days on Friday nights. Women dance round in an inner circle, men in an outer circle. The rattle is made by inserting sorghum through a hole in the base of the calabash which is then sealed with beeswax. An alternative method is to open the neck of the gourd to insert the seeds, then cassava leaves are used to fill the top. L = 22 cm. Gift from Deborah, an informant. Coll. 5.2.79; Langton Coll. 29.
Additional Accession Book Entry [in red biro under accession number] - A5-F32-15.

Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the tribes catalogue card [RTS 2/6/2004].

Pitt Rivers Museum label - AFRICA, Southern Sudan. MORU MISA tribe. Gourd dance rattle, gara . Purch. P. Langton, no. 29. 1979.20.11 [plastic coated label, tied to object; RTS 2/9/2005].

Written on object - 29 " [pencil]; S. SUDAN, MORU MISA, Pat Langton coll. 29. 1979.20.11 [RTS 1/9/2005].

Related Documents File - 1979.20 contains a typed packing list, which has been annotated; a typed list of objects arranged by Langton collection numbers and with pencil and biro annotations, and a handwritten list of objects by museum number, essentially repeating this information and annotated with PRM photo numbers in red. This handwritten list seems to be the direct source for the accession book entry [RTS 12/1/2004].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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