Fisherman usually use plain gourds as floats on their nets. Decorated gourds such as this one are sold in conjunction with the annual Argungu Fishing and Cultural Festival held in the town of Argungu in Sokoto state, Nigeria. This festival represents the expansion, begun in 1934, of a traditional local fishing festival into a national tourist event. The rain broadened river is lined with several thousand fisherman, each with handnets that have hooks at both ends and a large, spherical gourd with an opening at the top. When the signal is given, the fishermen wade into the flooded rice fields and catch huge fish. The cultural component consists of performers, artists and craftspeople, largely local but from other parts of northern Nigeria also.
The maker of this gourd is celebrating the fish theme in the gourd's pyroengraved pattern.
Two piece spherical gourd, pyroengraved inside and out with a design of fish and geometric patterns. The edge of the lid is colored red, with red fish designs on the inside, and a leather loop at the top.
Mildred A. Morton, Falls Church, Virginia, collected Sokoto, Nigeria, 1973 to 2000
Currents: Water in African Art, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., June 2016-ongoing
Konan, Mildred. 1974. "Calabashes in Northern Nigeria." Expedition 17 (1), p. 9.