Showcasing the art and ritual of the African and African-diaspora religions

Staffs (Bastones) of the Abakuá men’s initiatic society

Catalog Number: B348


Manuel Martínez Navarro and his team


Masango bastone (moon) :
Height: 81.28cm / 32 inches
Thick: 5.4cm / 2.15 inches

Euntácara bastone (cross):
Height: 80.01cm / 31.5 inches
Thick: 5.4cm / 2.15 inches

Illcunba bastone (snowflake):
Height: 83.82cm / 33 inches
Thick: 5.4cm / 2.15 inches

Macango bastone (donkey):
Height: 78.74cm /31 inches
Thick: 5.4cm / 2.15 inches

Religion and Denomination: Ocha (Cuba, Yoruba)
Transatlantic Family of Religion: Orisha
Country of Origin: Cuba
Ethnographic Origin: Caribbean
Usage: Ritual (non-yet-used)
Detailed Description of Significance:

These staffs were made to go with the Abakuá liturgical drums that Matory purchased two years earlier in Santiago de Cuba.  Like the liturgical drums of the Abakuá initiatic society and the feathered staffs on them, each of these staffs corresponds to and embodies the office of a high-ranking Abakuá officeholder.  From the left, the first staff corresponds to the office-holder called Mosongo, the second to the office-holder called Embácara, and the third to the office-holder called Illamba (note that one of the feather brushes mounted on the Eribó drum also corresponds to this office-holder), and the fourth corresponds to the office-holder known as Mokongo (note that one of the feather brushes mounted on the Eribó drums also corresponds to this office-holder as well).  These staffs are also carried in the sacred public processions of this initiatic and mutual-aid society. Manolo’s team crafted the wooden armatures of the staffs, some of which have been hollowed out and contain empowering substances.  Just before the purchase, he inserted the consecrating substances into the hollows of the staffs.   Manolo gathers the sheet metal used for the upper and lower caps, finding some of it in the street.  He commissions someone else to fashion the metalwork.  He personally applies all of the other decorations to the staff.  The cloth is synthetic leopard, ocelot, and jaguar pelt acquired in Mexico.  None of it is tiger-patterned, he says repeatedly, because there are no tigers in Africa.  The cowry shells are applied because they speak and because they were historically money.  The beads are purely decorative and are arranged according to an aesthetic logic, he explains.  Manolo cuts out the yellow “signatures” (firmas) from pieces of leather.  See also item #B348.