SPECIAL ADVISORY: The Yale University Art Gallery is open to the public with free, timed-entry tickets to its permanent-collection galleries from Friday through Sunday. Learn More and Plan Your Visit

African Art

Tusk Carved in Relief

late 19th century


22 × 2 1/2 × 3 in. (55.88 × 6.35 × 7.62 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
According to Kongo beliefs, the design scheme of a continuous spiral is a visual metaphor for the path that is taken through time by the dead. The term zinga, meaning “to encircle,” is used to describe movement in a spiral trajectory; it is also the name of the elongated spiral seashell used as a form of Kongo currency.
or Democratic Republic of the Congo
or Cabinda Province, Loango Coast, Angola
On view
19th century

Arcade Gallery, London, to February 26, 1989; Charles B. Benenson Collection, donated to Yale University Art Gallery in 2004


“Acquisitions, July 1, 2005–June 30, 2006,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2006): 222.

Frederick John Lamp, Amanda Maples, and Laura M. Smalligan, Accumulating Histories: African Art from the Charles B. Benenson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2012), 274, ill.

Z. S. Strother, Humor and Violence (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 2016), 84–85, fig. 4.2.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.