Inventory no.: 3101

Shona or Karanga Snuff Bottle


Chip-Carved Wooden Snuff Bottle

Shona or Karanga People, Mozambique & Zimbabwe

19th century

length: 19.5cm

This fine, elongated snuff bottle carved from a single piece of dark wood and has a handle to one side. It has been decorated all over with deeply cut lines and ridges. It is from the Shona or Karanga people of Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Typically, such vessels are incorrectly identified as coming from the Zulu people.

At almost 20 centimetres in length, this example is relatively large, suggesting a 19th century dating. This is consistent with the provenance of the item – it was acquired in the UK and is likely to have been in the UK since colonial times. Later examples and particularly examples carved for the souvenir market tend to be much smaller.

Related examples are illustrated in Ginzberg (2000, p. 115), Klopper et al (2007, p. 101) and Petridis (2011, p. 47).

Smoking tobacco and taking snuff have been common practice among many of the indigenous peoples of southern Africa. Snuff bottles are personal, portable objects. The form of the type of snuff bottle here is most probably based on a seed pod.

The bottle has a fine patina and clear age. It is free of damage or cracks.


Ginzberg, M., African Forms, Skira, 2000.

Klopper, S., A, Nettleton & T. Pethica,

The Art of Southern Africa: The Terence Pethica Collection, 5 Continents, 2007.

Petridis, C.,

The Art of Daily Life: Portable Objects from Southeast Africa, 5 Continents, 2011.Provenance:

UK art market

Inventory no.: 3101

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