The Gourd
Journal of the American Gourd Society
In the Spring of 1999 I traveled for two and a half weeks in central Africa with a small group whose focus was to observe dancing mask festivals in many villages and communities in Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali. While I was anxious to experience the dances and the music that accompanies them, I particularly wanted to explore the use of gourd in the daily lives of the villagers. the following are excerpts from the article I wrote for The Gourd.

"I saw relatively few gourds in the semi-tropical coastline areas, other than those used as shekeries (gourds covered with a net of buttons), relics in the voodoo shrines, or the occasional container of seeds, spices and miscellaneous small items in the markets. One interesting exception was a very large old gourd, mended several times with stitching, which held lemonade at a rest stop beside the road. A communal calabash ladle provided a gulp of welcome refreshment from the 100 degree heat."
"My search for gourds was amply rewarded Some of the uses I found are: large bowl containers for water, beer, and all manner of dry stuffs, including seeds, grain, clothing, laundry. metric.; ladles and cups made of short handled dippers; cooking utensils of many different sizes stacked casually by the fire pit; feed containers for chickens; pairs of gourds used to winnow grains–-in short, gourds were used alongside and in all the ways we normally use metal and plastic containers. The people in the villages and compounds we visited were surpassed and amused by my excitement, photographing their humble calabash pile."
"Another 'instrument' used like a drum but without a membrane is the simple overturned gourd bowl. I had read about this while researching for the gourd musical instrument book (Making Gourd Musical Instruments), but was a bit in doubt that is use of gourd is still being used. What a surprise to find gourd bowls being played on other instruments with their overturned bowls on pads on the ground between their outstretched legs. One man was beating with particular enthusiasm, and broke his gourd. Several women in the compound quickly brought out other bowls from their households, which he tested for the right resonance, and then selecting one, resumed his part."