TERA Gallery - Africa and the World

"Altering The Way You View The World Of Art"
Dog Bells
19th - 20th  c.
I acquired these objects from a runner friend who told me that they were "dog
bells."   I was most interested in the objects because of their construction: a
round hollow wood shell  carved just enough to allow a smaller ball to  remain
inside that when shaken created soft and beautiful sounds.  These art objects
have a beautiful patina, and no two bells are the same.

I could not find any reference to these objects in my research, although all of
my African brothers knew exactly what they were.  

Then, I remembered a book about Dr. William Sheppard that mentioned "the
barkless dog."  

Never noticed and never discussed in art history, and never seen in an art
gallery, these African dog bells are a true work of art.  I look forward to sharing
this  memorable learning  experience of these objects with my  wonderful
friends at Hampton University.
  • According to Dr.  William H. Sheppard in his reports about the dog  
    that could not bark, the Besenji, he noted that  the dog owners when
    hunting would tie wooden bells with wooden clappers around their
    necks because each bell sounded different than the others allowing
    the owners to identify their own dog by the sound of the bells.
  • These bells were first noted in the early 1900's by Dr. William Henry
    Sheppard (1865 – 1927) who was one of the earliest African-
    Americans to become a missionary for the Presbyterian Church.  He
    spent from 1890 until 1910 in Africa, primarily in and around the
    Congo Free State, and is best known for his efforts in publicizing the
    atrocities committed against the Kuba and other Congolese peoples
    by King Leopold II's Force Publique.  Although Dr. Sheppard's efforts
    contributed to the contemporary debate on European colonialism and
    imperialism in the region, particularly amongst those of the African
    American community, he received little attention in literature on the

    By the 1870s Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia had
    established an African studies program, and in 1911 the school
    acquired the William H. Sheppard Collection of African Art – several
    hundred superb pieces gathered by William Sheppard, a Hampton
    alumnus.  Not only was Sheppard the first westerner to enter the
    Kuba Kingdom, he was first African American to collect African art in
    the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His contribution to Hampton
    University Museum’s collections gives it the oldest collection of Kuba-
    related material in the world.