Bow harp

20th century

Object Place: Democratic Republic of the Congo


32 in. d x 19 in. h x 8in. w

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Wood, leather, fiber

Not On View


Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art, Musical Instruments



Musical instruments and other utilitarian and prestige objects were made and exchanged among the Azande and Mangbetu kingdoms of the northeastern Congo region. At court entertainments, itinerant minstrels and retainers played gracefully curved bow harps to accompany their stories, poems, and songs. This harp, with four tuning pegs to tighten the strings (now lost) to the leather sounding box, has a sculptured head that suggests an Azande origin. Larger instrumental forms such as drums and gongs were used to communicate between villages in the area.


May 19, 1983, sold by Christine Schoffel (dealer), Paris, to William and Bertha Teel, Marblehead, MA; 1994, partial gift of William and Bertha Teel to the MFA; 2014, acquired fully with the bequest of William Teel to the MFA. (Accession Dates: January 26, 1994 and February 26, 2014)

Credit Line

Gift of William E. and Bertha L. Teel