moesgaard museum, de etnografiske samlinger, ethnography, collections, museum, aarhus, denmark

Medicine Calabash – Tanzania

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Hush, hush… we’re gonna let you in on a little secret here!

In Kisukuma, a calabash is called itolo. However, a calabash used to carry water is called kisabo, which actually refers to the calabash being large in size. This calabash contains medicine and therefore it’s a ntumba gwa bugota. 

Medicine calabashes would normally be found hanging from a medicine man’s stick, his shigiti, and often he would have several different calabashes, containing different types of medicine. However, this calabash differs from the regular ones because it has the name of the medicine it contains written on it: haluna. Due to the importance of secrecy, a Sukuma medicine man would never write the name of the medicine on the calabash, but since this was given to Moesgaard Museum, we were honored to be let in on the secret.

// Emma Louise Pedersen


Photo: © 2007 Photo/Media Department of Moesgaard Museum.

Byline portrait: © 2015 Line Beck,

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