Apr 20, 2021
May 8, 2009
Apr 21, 2021
Apr 21, 2021
Apr 21, 2021
Apr 21, 2021
Apr 21, 2021
Apr 21, 2021

Comb (cisakulo)

Comb (cisakulo)

mid- to late 1800s

Wood, glass beads, and natural fibers

Overall: 13.3 x 8 x 1.4 cm (5 1/4 x 3 1/8 x 9/16 in.)

The Harold T. Clark Educational Extension Fund 1915.453


On view at:

The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Nov 10, 2022 - Feb 27, 2023

Did you know?

The double birds on this comb are the ngungu, a kind of hornbill linked to hunting and the related power of leaders. They were considered a good omen, and served as mediators between the earthly world and the spiritual one.


Chokwe women and men inserted finely decorated combs and pins in their hair to signal rank and wealth. Here, as among neighboring peoples, hairstyles reflected changing trends across place and over time. This comb's wooden material and sculptural top made it of a higher value than simple examples made from metal or cane. Its wide teeth were practical, securing elements of a hairstyle in place. The long-beaked ngungu birds with beaded necklaces were a well-known symbol of chiefly power. In addition to being a sign of beauty and good health, a well-styled hairdo also suggests that the wearer relies on the help of others in its creation. Combs were often gifted to women by admirers or husbands to mark important life events. This comb entered the Cleveland Museum of Art's collection in 1915, one year before the museum opened its doors.

See also

Contact us

The information about this object, including provenance, may not be currently accurate. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email collectionsdata@clevelandart.org.

To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.

All images and data available through Open Access can be downloaded for free. For images not available through Open Access, a detail image, or any image with a color bar, request a digital file from Image Services.