Ngombo Ya Kusekula (Divination Basket)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


The Chokwe typically turn to a tahi (meaning diviner) when seeking advice or faced with an illness or affliction they’d like to overcome. A ngombo ya kusekula (also called ngombo ya lipele or ngombo ya cisuka) is a divination basket that forms part of the divination ensemble, referred to as ngombo ya cisuka, along with a number of other smaller objects (called tupele; sing. kapele) of various materials and types (including carved wooden figures of people and animals, animal parts and bones, calabashes and vegetal materials). These smaller tupele objects are used to represent a wide number of different social situations and ailments, with each kapele having a name and meaning.

It is believed that angry ancestral spirits (makamba; sing. hamba) are the cause of most ailments. During the divination process, the tahi shakes the divination basket to identify the cause of the ailment by trying to communicate with the hamba possessing his client. After shaking the basket, the kapele that lands on the side of the basket closest to the client becomes the point of investigation and interpretation. The tahi translates the meaning of the kapele associated with the problem for the client to reflect upon and take action. This kapele is then finally taken out the basket and worn by the client as an amulet.

Distinguishing Features

  • Made from root of mukenga bush
  • Coiled, spiral, woven basket
  • Base is sometimes made from bottom of a calabash
  • Some are decorated with animal skin (mongoose, civet, weasel)
  • Small bells sometimes added to sides
  • Sometimes tortoise shells added to sides
  • Inside of basket painted with patterns in red and white clay

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