Several years ago I had an interesting whip, it was black and made of a length of wood or vine, the three branches of which twisted around each other. It can be seen at http://www.sportingcollection.com/whips/w174/w174.html. I had bought it as part of a small collection of sidesaddle whips, and never managed to identify it.
So I was surprised to find another two very similar whips at a local auction last year
I was still pretty clueless about them.
Until today. I was researching some spurs, using the marvelous French museum online database “Joconde” (the French name for the Mona Lisa). As so often happens when searching for things on the internet, I wandered away from my original search. I was happily scrolling through the results for “fouet” (most of which were kitchen balloon whisks ), when suddenly I saw my whip.
It was in the collection of the Pithiviers Museum of Art & History, which has an ethnographic collection. It was donated to the museum in 1910 from the collection of Louis Gosse (1876 – 1939). The piece originated in the High Ubangi region , the Ubangi river is a large tributary of the Congo.
I still haven’t identified the type of wood or creeper, or the function of the whips, but at least I have somewhere to start…
I found another example at Brooklyn Museum, not much extra information there – it is described as a plaited twig whip from the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was collected on the 1922 Museum Expedition, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund, along with many “chicottes” – whips made from twisted rhino hide. There are many disturbing accounts of the hide whips being used on people, but I have not found any descriptions of these lighter twig whips being used for this purpose, which is sort of comforting. Sort of.