Bow harp, Acholi?

Bow harp, Acholi?

Accession Number:
1998.9.1 .1 .2
Uganda , [Sudan]
Masindi District Kibanda County Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement [Southern Sudan]
Cultural Group:
Joseph Oryem
Date Made:
By 1997
Wood Plant , Animal Hide Skin , Nylon Synthetic
Carved , Perforated Grooved , Stretched , Covered , Twisted Strung Tied
[.1] Diagonal L from top neck to end soundbox = 620; neck diam = 30; tuning peg head = 12 x 10.5, L = 63.5, base diam = 4.2; soundbox L = 250, max W = 122, Ht = 85, sound hole diam = 30 x 25, string hole diam = 2, string diam = 0.5 mm [RTS 29/9/2005].
763.9 g (total 1. and .2)
Local Name:
Other Owners:
Made by Joseph Oryem; obtained by Tania Kaiser 1997; sold to PRM on 19th January 1998
Field Collector:
Tania Kaiser
PRM Source:
Tania Kaiser
Purchased 19 January 1998
Collected Date:
Bow harp consisting of a curved neck carved from a lightweight yellow branch (Pantone 7509C), stripped of its surface bark, with bevelled upper end and a tapering shaft that fits into the side of a wooden soundbox. The neck has been perforated with a row of 10 holes, bored through the wood from one side. Faint impressed lines have been cut around the back of these holes, in this case possibly from having tightly tensioned strings drawn around the wood at this point. The holes have been fitted with solid wooden tuning pegs carved from orangey brown (Pantone 729C), roughly shaped with unevenly cut tops. The pegs have a rectangular upper body with a cylindrical, peg-like base that fits through the tuning hole. Some have a shallow groove running around the upper body, to seat the end of the string. 9 pegs are of a similar size; the lowest peg has a much longer body and is more irregular in shape. The uppermost peg has broken off in its hole, and its upper part and a length of string attached to it are currently loose; these have been numbered 1998.9.1.2; the rest of the instrument is 1998.9.1.1.

The harp body has been carved from a piece of yellow wood (Pantone 7509C), and consists of a bowl with flat-topped rim, upright sides and a flattened base. The body has a sub-rectangular plan view with a curved back and straight front end. This has been covered with a piece of yellow hide (Pantone 7508C) with a rough surface and traces of bristly buff coloured hair, stretched tightly over the mouth and down the sides, to form the sound table; a similar but smaller piece covers the base. Both pieces have been perforated around their edges, and stitched together using narrow hide strips that form a zigzag pattern around the sides of the soundbox. Two large circular sound holes have been cut in opposite corners of the sound table, with a row of 10 string holes running down the middle; there are some horizontal lines to the side of several of these holes, probably representing marks placed there to guide the craftsmen during manufacture. The line of the string carrier can be detected underneath the sound table, where it has distorted the shape of the hide, but neither end protrudes from the surface, as is more usually the case with this type of harp. This is made of wood, and runs beneath the line of string holes, where it is used to secure the strings. The strings have been made from lengths of a pale cream coloured twisted nylon (Pantone 7506C), and have been tied around the waisted part of each tuning peg, then wound several times around the shaft in a clockwise direction, before passing around the back of the neck, over the protruding peg end on this side of the neck, then down towards the soundbox, where they pass through the string holes and pierced sound carrier, to be secured on the other side. The 5 upper strings have broken part way along their lengths.

The harp is complete, but damaged. It has a weight of 763.9 grams. It measures 620 mm from the top of the neck to the end of the soundbox; the neck has a diameter of 30 mm; a typical tuning peg has a head width of 12 by 10.5 mm, is 63.5 mm long, and has a base diameter of 4.2 mm. The soundbox is 250 mm long, with a maximum width of 122 mm, and is 85 mm high; the sound holes have a diameter of 30 by 25 mm, the string holes have a diameter of 2 mm and the string a diameter of 0.5 mm.

This instrument was made by Joseph Oryem; its manufacture was observed and photographed by Tania Kaiser, who then acquired the item.
Kaiser was a D.Phil. student of Linacre College, conducting fieldwork in the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement from October 1996 to March 1997, and between June and November 1997.

This object is said to be called
adungu, which is an Acholi word, and should therefore be a type of bow harp. According to Kaiser, "music and dance are both common and important within the community, regardless of whether the context is 'traditional' or modern, religious or secular".

The population of the camp had originally come from Parajok in the Torit district of Southern Sudan, and was a mix of Acholi from that area and previously displaced Sudanese refugees. For details of her work, see: T. Kaiser, 1999,
Living in Limbo: Insecurity and the Settlement of Sudanese Refugees in Northern Uganda (Unpublished PhD) ; T. Kaiser, "Making Do and Making Beautiful: Recycling in an African Refugee Settlement", in: J. Coote, C. Morton and J. Nicholson (eds), Transformations, the Art of Recyclying, 44-47; T. Kaiser, 2000, UNHCR's Withdrawal from Kiryandongo: Anatomy of a Handover, New Issues in Refugee Research Working Paper No. 32, 1, 3.

For other
adungu in the collection, see 1985.24.1-5, and 1994.60.1-2.

Rachael Sparks 25/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Day book entry - 20/1[/98]. D[onation]. MdA. [donor] TANIA KAISER. 1998.9. AFRICA, UGANDA, MASINIDI DISTRICT, KIRYANDONGO REFUGEE SETTLEMENT. Collection of objects collected by donor.

Original accession entry - Stringed musical instrument. The instrument has a wooden neck and pegs, and its body is covered with animal skin, which is tied on. The strings reach from small holes in the body to the pegs. [CW 31/3/98].

Pitt Rivers Museum label - AFRICA, UGANDA, MASINDI DISTRICT; SUDANESE ACHOLI? Stringed instrument. made by Joseph Oryem. Coll. Tania Kaiser, 1997. 1998.9.1 [plastic label with metal eyelet, tied to object; RTS 30/9/2005].

Related Documents File - RDF 1998.9: Acquisition Record, dated 19/1/1998, for 'collection of material from Uganda'. Memo dated 21/1/1998 from Jeremy Coote to Julia Cousins, dated 23/1/1998 regarding enclosed invoice for £150 from Tania Kaiser for 'collection of artefacts from Northern Uganda'. This object appears on an attached list as item 1: "Adungu. Stringed musical instrument made by Joseph Oryem". This is annotated: "T[ania] K[aiser] has photos of instrument being made. Can let us have names of individual parts. Anteater skin?". The museum purchased the item for £35. There is also a typed document on file, titled "Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement, Masindi District, Uganda. Background to objects collected from a predominantly Sudanese Acholi community in 1997 by Tania Kaiser". The refugee settlement is described as being 14 kms from Kiryandongo town, near Bweyale and Nyakadot. The population is predominantly Acholi, but other groups represented there include Latuko, Madi, Bari and some Zande. There is a small market within the settlement itself, but many people go to the market at nearby Bweyale. Musical instruments such as adungu, lokeme, bul and ajar ( a stringed instrument, a thumb piano, drum and a percussion instrument respectively) are regularly made using natural materials, "music and dance are both common and important within the community, regardless of whether the context is 'traditional' or modern, religious or secular" [RTS 15/12/2003].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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