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Animism: Belief that everything, living or inert, has a soul.

Anthropology: The set of sciences that study man: social and cultural anthropology, biological anthropology, ethnology, linguistics, etc.

Anthropomorphic: Of human form. Bow

Musical bow: Instrument consisting of a rattan rope stretched over a wooden bow. The rope is placed against the mouth which then serves as sound box, and it is struck with a stick. Sometimes the sound box is a calabash.
Primitive Art: The term “primitive” was associated with the artistic productions of peoples supposed to have remained in the first state of humanity. Although unsatisfactory, this terminology is today a language convention accepted especially in the Anglo-Saxon countries, where is used the expression Primitive art.

Avant-garde: Describes artistic movements that manifest a desire to break radically with traditions, conventions and established schools.


Balafon: Musical instrument resembling the xylophone. The blades of different sizes, numbering seventeen, nineteen or twenty, are made of wood and fixed on a series of calabashes forming sound boxes. Name originally from West Africa.

Bantu: Term for a large linguistic group located throughout Central Africa (from Cameroon), and in most of eastern and southern Africa.

Bas-relief: Sculpture adhering to a background, from which it stands out with a weak projection.


Chefferie: The term chieftaincy has two meanings in the French ethnological literature. It designates an office, elective or hereditary, whose holder is invested with the political authority over a given group and, by extension, this group itself, generally of reduced size, which distinguishes it from a kingdom. In Bonte, P. and Izard, M., 2000.

Clan: kinship group generated by the application of a principle of unilinear descent that is to say either passing exclusively by men (patrilineal clan) or by women (matrilineal clan). In general, a clan is an exogamous social group. It entails for its members duties (of solidarity, sharing) and rights (on land, titles, etc.).


DjémbéDjémbé: Drum shaped chalice cut in wood and stretched with a skin.


Aesthetics: Philosophical and scientific study of art and beauty.

Ethnography: Study and description of human groups (ethnic groups, cultures, societies, etc.).

Ethnology: Study and theoretical perspective of the facts reported by ethnography (see ethnography).


Fetish: Portuguese word, feitiçao, which means “charm of magic” or “spell”. It has been used to describe objects of African origin among others, to which a non-Christian religious dimension was attributed.


Griot, otte: Poet traveling musician in Black Africa, depository of the oral culture and reputed to be in relation with the spirits.


Harp-zither: A string instrument consisting of 5 or 8 strings attached to a curved handle and connected to a sound box made of wood or calabash stretched skin. It is mainly used in Central Africa in traditional music.


Kora: Rope musical instrument from West Africa consisting of 21 strings stretched on a long neck fixed on a sound box composed of a half calabash stretched with a skin. To play, the musician holds the sound box against him and pinches the strings at the base of the neck.


Lineage: Group of unilinear descent whose members consider themselves descendants either by the men of a common ancestor (patrilineal lineage) or by the women of a common ancestor (matrilineal lineage).


Matrilinear: A mode of parentage in which only ancestry by women is taken into account for the transmission of the name, status, membership of a social unit and for the choice of the group in which one must to marry. In J.-C. Tamisier (ed.), 1998.

Monoxyle: Made object, carved in a single piece of wood.

Museography: Set of technical concepts necessary for the presentation and preservation of collections in museums.

Museology: Science of the organization of museums, the conservation and enhancement of collections.


Nkisi: (pl Minkisi) Name Kongo used to designate a type of statuette that is found in the Congo Basin, and more particularly in the Bakongo area. These statuettes are filled with substances that give them their strength and are used during propitiatory rites. The term minkisi literally means “things that do things”. There are three types of minkisi: the minkisi reliquaries, carrying a ventral pocket containing medicines closed by a mirror, minkisi nkonde, finds