Sanza or Thumb Piano, Luba people, D.R.C.

Sanzas, also referred to as lamellophones, mbiras or “thumb pianos,” have been played on the African continent for centuries. Traditionally, the music of the sanza accompanies recitations of oral histories and stories of the ancestors, its repetitive melodies attracting and welcoming the spirits. Many sanzas feature elegant carvings and symbolic motifs meant to honor the ancestors. Prominent figural busts are a familiar motif, as embodied in the pair of heads found in the present example. Carved with strong, stylized features and mounted side by side above the deep inward sweep of the instrument’s flanks, these two busts may represent an ancestral couple.

Late 19th / early 20th Century
Wood, metal
Height: 8 in; Width: 5 ½ in (20.3 cm x 14 cm)

JJ Klejman

Martin and Faith-Dorian Wright, New York City

Item Number:
Click To Enlarge

Keep In Touch

Stay up to date on new acquisitions, collections, updates, and more.
Thank you, we'll be in touch.
Apologies—something went wrong. Please try again.