Art & Artists / Artwork of the week / Trumpet with double figure

Trumpet with double figure

Trumpet with double figure
Late 19th/20th Century
Elephant ivory
h. 36.8cm
Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection.
UEA 630

Several ivory ‘side-blown’ trumpets of this type are known to have come from coastal Cameroon, east of the Cross River. They may have been used for summoning warriors and giving orders. The vernacular languages of the Cross River area are tonal, lending themselves well to the use of ‘talking’ instruments; hence their suitability for issuing war commands.

Such horns were also blown after a warrior’s death and burial, though not if he were killed in battle, in which case his spirit might remain hostile to the enemy. On this example we can see carved cowrie ornament between the two heads, forming a double band below the figures. This could be a mark of status and suggests that this trumpet may have been part of a Chief’s regalia.