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Gallery 5

Gallery 5

This gallery was constructed in the 1960s by Percy Powell-Cotton’s son Christopher. It houses many of the ethnographic objects collected by Percy and his wife Hannah, who accompanied him to Sudan in 1933. Christopher built a gallery that was in keeping with the ones built by his father, and displayed the objects in a similar fashion to those found in Galleries 1, 2 and 3. Although built in the mid twentieth century, the gallery therefore retains the feel of the older parts of the museum.

Percy and Hannah Powell-Cotton travelled to Sudan between 1933 and 1934, visiting communities in the Upper Nile region of what is now South Sudan. They collected over 2000 objects, making the Powell-Cotton Museum’s Sudan collection one of the most important in Europe for both its quantity and its quality. The objects in these cases reflect the main sources of food and income of the rural populations they encountered, including subsistence agriculture and herding (cattle and goats). There are also many items representing daily life, such as tools, musical instruments, weapons and personal ornaments. 

The gallery also showcases material that Percy and his daughter Diana collected during an expedition to Somalia in 1934. Highlights from this collection include a series of objects relating to the practice of Islam in Somalia, such as charms and amulets containing extracts from the Quran. There are also many objects reflecting a woman’s appearance; particularly a variety of beaded jewellery items and intricately made pots for kohl, used as eyeliner.

The central cases explore another of Percy Powell-Cotton’s passions – technology. On every expedition, he collected a variety of items that explained how objects were made. These displays examine the process of brass casting from Benin in Nigeria; iron smelting from Angola; corn grinding and bread making from Somalia and weaving from Cameroon. The figure of a weaver seated at a loom is modelled on an actual weaver Percy Powell-Cotton met in 1928. His photograph is also on display in this gallery.  

Photographs: Nikhilesh Havel

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