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Engaging with the ethnography collection

Group of people gathered around a table looking at objects

Exploring African origin objects

African origin objects from the Northampton Museums and Art Gallery collection were explored in a project developed by Opal22 Arts and Edutainment called Knowledge of the Unseen. The project sought to understand the people that made the objects, what they were used for, how they were created and why. In this way the project looked at re-connecting British people with African ancestral objects.

Researching the collection

Volunteers from the black community in Leicester visited the ethnography collection. They chose six objects and developed their research by interacting with universities, museums and academics across the UK and Africa.

The following object represents one of those chosen by the group from the Northampton collection. This knife was made by the Mangbetu society in West Africa. One of the richest tribes in Africa, they controlled the ivory trade and richly decorated both everyday and ceremonial objects.

Metal dagger in leather sheath with ivory head of a women handle.

Ivory handled knife with head of a woman made by the West African Mangbetu tribe. The elongated head of the woman depicted on the handle represents the practice of Lipombo, reshaping the skull by binding.

Have a look at more objects in the collection researched through this project.

African continent objects in the collection

A film records the journey of the individuals who took part.

Knowledge of the Unseen project film

More information about the project can be found on the project website.

Knowledge of the Unseen project website