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Mbwoongntet, or drinking cup, stained wood, Democratic Republic of Congo, Bakuba people, Africa, ca. 1948-1960, gift of Madge Rice, 1972.16.13.

A “Mbwoongntet” is a ceremonial drinking cup used almost exclusively for palm wine, the fermented sap of palm trees. The Bakuba people have long displayed their wealth through carved drinking goblets like this one. The intricate carving and ornamentation are public signs of an individual’s wealth and class. The The focus on the head may be related to how the Bakuba believe that a person’s head is were all their soul, mind, and personality.

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