Portrait pipe in steatite
No greater variety of tobacco pipes is known as from the country Congo, and that is not only due to the size of that country. It seems that every tribe had its own smoking equipment and the variation is endless. The illustrated stone pipe is made by the Mayombe and is characteristic for that tribe. In terms of the use of materials, the pipe is one of the extremes because the Mayombe used steatite for the bowl and carved that type of stone into a stylized portrait pipe. The chin of the figure became very appropriately the heel of the pipe. Next, the bowl opening and stem were filled in with lead. The pipe is then mounted on a lead mouth piece, which is attached to the bowl with a wooden stem, ensuring that the two parts are connected airtight. That these pipes are primarily a status item and not a use pipe may be clear. Stone and lead are pre-eminently unsuitable materials for a pipe. They are heavy and, moreover, do not absorb moisture. In the worst case, the lead can melt by burning tobacco. However, such pipes are indeed smoked, as witnessed by a comparable, intensively used item in our collection. Interesting about this pipe is that it was preserved in Africa and only came to Europe a century after manufacture.
Amsterdam Pipe Museum APM 21.211Permalink