Tukula Paste Block (Bongotol)
Not on view
Tukula, a bright red pigment, is obtained by rubbing together pieces of heartwood from a tropical tree. Two tree species, Camwood (Bafia nitra) and African Padauk (Pterocarpus soyauxii), are valued for their red heartwood. Ground in a mortar, tukula becomes a fine powder that is mixed with palm oil to create a paste, which can be variously shaped. Tukula can be used as a textile dye, paint for carved objects, and for cosmetics. When baked, tukula paste hardens into blocks (known as bongotol), which are decorated and presented as funerary gifts. The incised patterns deploy the same abstract and graphic vocabulary as that found on other Kuba prestige items.