"Moon" box (ngondo)

20th century, 1950–2000
Artist Unidentified

Object Place: Democratic Republic of the Congo


Overall: 6.5 x 31 x 15.5 cm (2 9/16 x 12 3/16 x 6 1/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art


Decorative arts

Kuba wooden boxes, produced in large numbers, served different purposes according to their shapes. This so-called “moon” box once contained tukula, a reddish powder prepared from the bark of a tree. Men and women rubbed their bodies, hair, and clothing with this treasured substance during festive occasions and also used it in ritual settings. Designs, all with specific names, cover the entire container. Elaborate boxes like this, belonged in a leadership context, expressing visually the dominant role of the royals and the nobility.


Early 1980s, sold by Mr. Keita, Cambridge, MA, to Geneviève McMillan (b. 1922 - d. 2008), Cambridge, MA; 2008, to the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation, Cambridge; 2009, gift of the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation to the MFA. (Accession Date: June 17, 2009)

Credit Line

Gift of Geneviève McMillan in memory of Reba Stewart