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Tabwa Miba Bellows

A rare Tabwa Carved Wood Bellows with a head on top and Animal Hide. Democratic Republic of the Congo.

65 cm high.

Tabwa Miba Bellows

Tabwa Carved Wood Bellows with a head on top and Animal Hide. Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Used by the blacksmith's to heat the fire to forge the iron.

ahdrc Object number: ao-0042606-003

Height: 65 cm
Width: 38 cm
Depth: 12.7 cm

Medium: Wood, skin / hide


Maximillian Schell collection, Austrian acteur(1930-2014)
Private Collection, Belgium
Lucien Van de Velde, Antwerp, Belgium. 1988
John Brailsford Elliott (1928-1997) collection, Princeton, New Jersey, USA, historian, Wall Street financier. Acquired from the above on 1 February 1989
James Freeman, Kyoto, Japan, Feb 1, 1989
Richard Ulevitch Collection, Ventures, California, USA, 2019-2023
Howard Rose, New York, 2023
David Norden, Antwerpen. bought from the Above


Stair, Hudson NY, “African, Oceanic and Southeast Asia Formerly from The Collection of John B. Elliott”, 20 September 2019. Lot 98.
Arte Primitivo, New York, “Fine Pre-Columbian & Tribal Art, Classical, Egyptian and Asian Antiquities 111”, 20 September 2023. Lot 679.


Age splits to the wood and minor losses to the hide. One hide missing. Remains of offering. Layered Patina.


Sculptural instrument for metal smithworking, in form of a stylized figure, the head of an elder with large ovate eyes, large relief ears, and grooved hair. The body with two large circular chambers for air flow covered with animal hide, one cover missing, and lower tubular body with relief arrowhead. Custom base. Bellows were an integral part of smithworking, an art integral to the culture.
For a similar Tabwa bellows see Christie's, Paris, December 11, 2014, lot 154.

See Roberts and Maurer (1985, fig.66 and p.183) for a comparable forge bellows from a Belgian private collection and for an in-situ photograph illustrating the use of this type of object. Forge bellows are characteristic of the peoples of Democratic Republic of Congo, particularly the Luba and the Tabwa, but examples adorned with anthropomorphic faces are extremely rare.

Tabwa bellows are very rare, only four are mentionned in the Ahdrc database: ao-0042606-003, ao-0031882-001 , ao-0144438-001 , ao-0153668-001

Read this pdf about the Tabwa tribe and culture.


– Ahdrc screenshot,

– Lucien Van de Velde Photos of the Tabwa bellows,  Village Blacksmiths In Africa .

– From The Life And Explorations Of Dr. Livingstone Published 1874.

These iron blacksmiths worked on an anvil and stoked a forge with bellows.  “their patience is great… The forge is set up anywhere where a fire can be built. They have invented a singular bellows, composed of two short, hollowed cylinders of wood, surmounted by skins accurately fitted on, and having an appropriate valve and a wooden handle. The bellows-man sits down, and moves these coverings up and down with great rapidity, and the air is led through small wooden pipes into an iron joint which emerges in the fire”




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