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Re: [African_Arts] Identify Slit Drum?

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  • Lee Rubinstein
    Joe: Although the symbolic implications of the owl and antelope as surmounting elements on the slit drum are not clearly understood (simpler representations of
    Message 1 of 6 , Oct 3, 2009
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      Joe:

      Although the symbolic implications of the owl and antelope as surmounting elements on the slit drum are not clearly understood (simpler representations of human heads surmounting the drum are more common although these and other zoomorphic representations do appear), the likely origin of the drum itself is presumably Yaka or Suku.   Such slit drums belongs to the class of divinatory instruments known as mkoku or mukoku  (sing., nkoku -- also, n-kooku and nkookwangoombu) used in ngoombu divinatory practice.  

      Suggestive of possible directions for further exploration of the animal symbolism in particular, Arthur Bourgeois wrote in his article, "Mukoku Ngoombu:  Yaka Divination Paraphernalia" (African Arts Volume XVI, No. 3/May, 1983, pp. 56-59, n. 80):

      "Other Yaka and Suku slit-drums feature an antelope, bird or tortoise image surmounting the carved head.  Although these animals were described by diviners as having no significance other than as decoration provided by the sculptor, one must not conclude that such representations are meaningless.  These animals are associated with various charms and charm ingredients... animals are a food source, have a significance in hunting mystique, and also present analogies to human character types in folktales.  Although their appearance on slit-drums and elsewhere may simply be decorative, they also have a much broader significance.  In folktales, for instance, the antelope or gazelle repeatedly and maliciously tricks other animals, especially the leopard, an animal otherwise symbolic of chiefly power and overwhelming force...  The relationship between such imagery and divination is somewhat diffuse;  it may be that the frailty of these animals and their ultimate triumph over overwhelming odds symbolically parallel the divination process."  (p. 58)

      Although owl-headed figures do appear among the Yaka, the only specific reference to the owl that I have identified is a related discussion of owl symbolism among the Luunda in an article which explores Ndembu, Luunda and Yaka and divination ["Ndembu, Luunda and Yaka Divination Compared: From Representation and Social Engineering to Embodiment and Worldmaking" by Filip de Boeck & Rene [Renaat] Devisch].  Although this reference applies more directly to the ideation within the Luunda complex of thought, a closer reading to determine the inter-relationship of Luunda and Yaka ideas and practices may reveal the relevance of this detail to symbolic thought among the Yaka:  

      "Diviners also say that 'the muyoomb tree is an owl'. As stated above, themuyoomb represents the ancestors in the ancestral shrines, and symbolizes (matrilineal) descent. In the saying the diviner compares himself to themuyoomb, which is the most important tree in terms of life-transmission and the continuation of the lineage, in the same way as the owl is the most important bird of sorcery. Like the owl sees at night, the diviner/tree sees during the day.  The association with the muyoomb relates the diviner to his ancestors, and thereby to the matrilineal source of life flow..."

      Other resources for the study of the Yaka slit drum and the symbolism inherent in implements used in Yaka divinatory practices include:

      René Devisch, "The Slit-Drum and Body Imagery in Mediumistic Divination among the Yaka" in John Pemberton III, ed., Insight and Artistry in African Divination.  Washington, DC and London:  Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000.

      René Devisch, "The slit drum and the birth of divinatory utterance in the Yaka milieu," pp. 97-109 in Luc de Heusch, ed., Objects:  Signs of Africa.  Brussels:  Snoeck-Ducaju & Zoon, 1995.

      Lee


      On Oct 2, 2009, at 10:38 AM, Joseph wrote:

      I have been pouring through my books and other sources trying to figure this one out.I think I see Luba motifs suggested in the geometric patterns. I don't expect it has any real age to it. The carving is very nice. Sound, excellent. Can anyone tell me what this is and if the twin antelope and owl have any traditional precedent?
      Joe

      http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/African_ Arts/photos/ album/606318878/ pic/852788221/ view


    • joseph anderson
      Thanks for pointing me in the right direction. The slit drum is definitely Yaka. I found double faced examples with animals perched on top of the hood like
      Message 2 of 6 , Oct 3, 2009
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        Thanks for pointing me in the right direction. The slit drum is
        definitely Yaka. I found double faced examples with animals perched on
        top of the hood like shape. The drum shape is very traditional. I also
        found a Yaka mask with the same style antelope or gazelle. Also a
        couple of carved figures with the owl face. The figures, one female and
        one male are carved as if the owl is worn as a mask.
        Again, thanks for your help.
        Joe

        On Oct 3, 2009, at 11:13 AM, Lee Rubinstein wrote:

        > Joe:
        >
        > Although the symbolic implications of the owl and antelope as
        > surmounting elements on the slit drum are not clearly understood
        > (simpler representations of human heads surmounting the drum are more
        > common although these and other zoomorphic representations do appear),
        > the likely origin of the drum itself is presumably Yaka or Suku.  
        > Such slit drums belongs to the class of divinatory instruments known
        > as mkoku or mukoku  (sing., nkoku -- also, n-kooku and nkookwangoombu)
        > used in ngoombu divinatory practice.  
        >
        > Suggestive of possible directions for further exploration of the
        > animal symbolism in particular, Arthur Bourgeois wrote in his article,
        > "Mukoku Ngoombu:  Yaka Divination Paraphernalia" (African Arts Volume
        > XVI, No. 3/May, 1983, pp. 56-59, n. 80):
        >
        > "Other Yaka and Suku slit-drums feature an antelope, bird or tortoise
        > image surmounting the carved head.  Although these animals were
        > described by diviners as having no significance other than as
        > decoration provided by the sculptor, one must not conclude that such
        > representations are meaningless.  These animals are associated with
        > various charms and charm ingredients... animals are a food source,
        > have a significance in hunting mystique, and also present analogies to
        > human character types in folktales.  Although their appearance on
        > slit-drums and elsewhere may simply be decorative, they also have a
        > much broader significance.  In folktales, for instance, the antelope
        > or gazelle repeatedly and maliciously tricks other animals, especially
        > the leopard, an animal otherwise symbolic of chiefly power and
        > overwhelming force...  The relationship between such imagery and
        > divination is somewhat diffuse;  it may be that the frailty of these
        > animals and their ultimate triumph over overwhelming odds symbolically
        > parallel the divination process."  (p. 58)
        >
        > Although owl-headed figures do appear among the Yaka, the only
        > specific reference to the owl that I have identified is a related
        > discussion of owl symbolism among the Luunda in an article which
        > explores Ndembu, Luunda and Yaka and divination ["Ndembu, Luunda and
        > Yaka Divination Compared: From Representation and Social Engineering
        > to Embodiment and Worldmaking" by Filip de Boeck & Rene [Renaat]
        > Devisch].  Although this reference applies more directly to the
        > ideation within the Luunda complex of thought, a closer reading to
        > determine the inter-relationship of Luunda and Yaka ideas and
        > practices may reveal the relevance of this detail to symbolic thought
        > among the Yaka:  
        >
        > "Diviners also say that 'the muyoomb tree is an owl'. As stated above,
        > themuyoomb represents the ancestors in the ancestral shrines, and
        > symbolizes (matrilineal) descent. In the saying the diviner compares
        > himself to themuyoomb, which is the most important tree in terms of
        > life-transmission and the continuation of the lineage, in the same way
        > as the owl is the most important bird of sorcery. Like the owl sees at
        > night, the diviner/tree sees during the day.  The association with
        > the muyoomb relates the diviner to his ancestors, and thereby to the
        > matrilineal source of life flow..."
        >
        > Other resources for the study of the Yaka slit drum and the symbolism
        > inherent in implements used in Yaka divinatory practices include:
        >
        > René Devisch, "The Slit-Drum and Body Imagery in Mediumistic
        > Divination among the Yaka" in John Pemberton III, ed., Insight and
        > Artistry in African Divination.  Washington, DC and London:
        >  Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000.
        >
        > René Devisch, "The slit drum and the birth of divinatory utterance in
        > the Yaka milieu," pp. 97-109 in Luc de Heusch, ed., Objects:  Signs of
        > Africa.  Brussels:  Snoeck-Ducaju & Zoon, 1995.
        >
        > Lee
        >
        >
        > On Oct 2, 2009, at 10:38 AM, Joseph wrote:
        >
        >> I have been pouring through my books and other sources trying to
        >> figure this one out.I think I see Luba motifs suggested in the
        >> geometric patterns. I don't expect it has any real age to it. The
        >> carving is very nice. Sound, excellent. Can anyone tell me what this
        >> is and if the twin antelope and owl have any traditional precedent?
        >> Joe
        >>
        >> http://groups.yahoo.com/group/African_Arts/photos/album/606318878/
        >> pic/852788221/view
        >>
        >
        >
      • Lee Rubinstein
        For additional on-line access to information pertaining to the Yaka slit-drum and divination practices, also see the example included in Art and Oracle:
        Message 3 of 6 , Oct 4, 2009
        • 0 Attachment
          For additional on-line access to information pertaining to the Yaka slit-drum and divination practices, also see the example included in "Art and Oracle: African Art and Rituals of Divination" on the site of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Part 3 of the article on "Divination Practice in sub-Saharan Africa" by John Pemberton III pertaining to Yaka divination practice:

          This example is particularly interesting for its transformation from oracular device to "charm"... reminding us of the changing role and significance of objects in response to their transit and the milieu of changing social realities...  

          Lee

          On Oct 3, 2009, at 3:08 PM, joseph anderson wrote:


          Thanks for pointing me in the right direction. The slit drum is definitely Yaka. I found double faced examples with animals perched on top of the hood like shape. The drum shape is very traditional. I also found a Yaka mask with the same style antelope or gazelle. Also a couple of carved figures with the owl face. The figures, one female and one male are carved as if the owl is worn as a mask.
          Again, thanks for your help.
          Joe

          On Oct 3, 2009, at 11:13 AM, Lee Rubinstein wrote:

          Joe:


          Although the symbolic implications of the owl and antelope as surmounting elements on the slit drum are not clearly understood (simpler representations of human heads surmounting the drum are more common although these and other zoomorphic representations do appear), the likely origin of the drum itself is presumably Yaka or Suku.   Such slit drums belongs to the class of divinatory instruments known as mkoku or mukoku  (sing., nkoku -- also, n-kooku and nkookwangoombu) used in ngoombu divinatory practice.  


          Suggestive of possible directions for further exploration of the animal symbolism in particular, Arthur Bourgeois wrote in his article, "Mukoku Ngoombu:  Yaka Divination Paraphernalia" (African Arts Volume XVI, No. 3/May, 1983, pp. 56-59, n. 80):


          "Other Yaka and Suku slit-drums feature an antelope, bird or tortoise image surmounting the carved head.  Although these animals were described by diviners as having no significance other than as decoration provided by the sculptor, one must not conclude that such representations are meaningless.  These animals are associated with various charms and charm ingredients... animals are a food source, have a significance in hunting mystique, and also present analogies to human character types in folktales.  Although their appearance on slit-drums and elsewhere may simply be decorative, they also have a much broader significance.  In folktales, for instance, the antelope or gazelle repeatedly and maliciously tricks other animals, especially the leopard, an animal otherwise symbolic of chiefly power and overwhelming force...  The relationship between such imagery and divination is somewhat diffuse;  it may be that the frailty of these animals and their ultimate triumph over overwhelming odds symbolically parallel the divination process."  (p. 58)


          Although owl-headed figures do appear among the Yaka, the only specific reference to the owl that I have identified is a related discussion of owl symbolism among the Luunda in an article which explores Ndembu, Luunda and Yaka and divination ["Ndembu, Luunda and Yaka Divination Compared: From Representation and Social Engineering to Embodiment and Worldmaking" by Filip de Boeck & Rene [Renaat] Devisch].  Although this reference applies more directly to the ideation within the Luunda complex of thought, a closer reading to determine the inter-relationship of Luunda and Yaka ideas and practices may reveal the relevance of this detail to symbolic thought among the Yaka:  


          "Diviners also say that 'the muyoomb tree is an owl'. As stated above, themuyoomb represents the ancestors in the ancestral shrines, and symbolizes (matrilineal) descent. In the saying the diviner compares himself to themuyoomb, which is the most important tree in terms of life-transmission and the continuation of the lineage, in the same way as the owl is the most important bird of sorcery. Like the owl sees at night, the diviner/tree sees during the day.  The association with the muyoomb relates the diviner to his ancestors, and thereby to the matrilineal source of life flow..."


          Other resources for the study of the Yaka slit drum and the symbolism inherent in implements used in Yaka divinatory practices include:


          René Devisch, "The Slit-Drum and Body Imagery in Mediumistic Divination among the Yaka" in John Pemberton III, ed., Insight and Artistry in African Divination.  Washington, DC and London:  Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000.


          René Devisch, "The slit drum and the birth of divinatory utterance in the Yaka milieu," pp. 97-109 in Luc de Heusch, ed., Objects:  Signs of Africa.  Brussels:  Snoeck-Ducaju & Zoon, 1995.


          Lee



          On Oct 2, 2009, at 10:38 AM, Joseph wrote:


          I have been pouring through my books and other sources trying to figure this one out.I think I see Luba motifs suggested in the geometric patterns. I don't expect it has any real age to it. The carving is very nice. Sound, excellent. Can anyone tell me what this is and if the twin antelope and owl have any traditional precedent?

          Joe


          http://groups.yahoo.com/group/African_Arts/photos/album/606318878/pic/852788221/view





        • M.E.F.
          Here is my own: just for the catalogue. Regards, MF ... From: Lee Rubinstein Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Identify Slit Drum? To:
          Message 4 of 6 , Oct 9, 2009
          Here is my own: just for the catalogue. Regards, MF

          --- On Sun, 10/4/09, Lee Rubinstein <LeeRubinstein@...> wrote:

          From: Lee Rubinstein <LeeRubinstein@...>
          Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Identify Slit Drum?
          To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
          Date: Sunday, October 4, 2009, 6:28 PM

          For additional on-line access to information pertaining to the Yaka slit-drum and divination practices, also see the example included in "Art and Oracle: African Art and Rituals of Divination" on the site of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Part 3 of the article on "Divination Practice in sub-Saharan Africa" by John Pemberton III pertaining to Yaka divination practice:

          This example is particularly interesting for its transformation from oracular device to "charm"... reminding us of the changing role and significance of objects in response to their transit and the milieu of changing social realities...  

          Lee

          On Oct 3, 2009, at 3:08 PM, joseph anderson wrote:


          Thanks for pointing me in the right direction. The slit drum is definitely Yaka. I found double faced examples with animals perched on top of the hood like shape. The drum shape is very traditional. I also found a Yaka mask with the same style antelope or gazelle. Also a couple of carved figures with the owl face. The figures, one female and one male are carved as if the owl is worn as a mask.
          Again, thanks for your help.
          Joe

          On Oct 3, 2009, at 11:13 AM, Lee Rubinstein wrote:

          Joe:


          Although the symbolic implications of the owl and antelope as surmounting elements on the slit drum are not clearly understood (simpler representations of human heads surmounting the drum are more common although these and other zoomorphic representations do appear), the likely origin of the drum itself is presumably Yaka or Suku.   Such slit drums belongs to the class of divinatory instruments known as mkoku or mukoku  (sing., nkoku -- also, n-kooku and nkookwangoombu) used in ngoombu divinatory practice.  


          Suggestive of possible directions for further exploration of the animal symbolism in particular, Arthur Bourgeois wrote in his article, "Mukoku Ngoombu:  Yaka Divination Paraphernalia" (African Arts Volume XVI, No. 3/May, 1983, pp. 56-59, n. 80):


          "Other Yaka and Suku slit-drums feature an antelope, bird or tortoise image surmounting the carved head.  Although these animals were described by diviners as having no significance other than as decoration provided by the sculptor, one must not conclude that such representations are meaningless.  These animals are associated with various charms and charm ingredients... animals are a food source, have a significance in hunting mystique, and also present analogies to human character types in folktales.  Although their appearance on slit-drums and elsewhere may simply be decorative, they also have a much broader significance.  In folktales, for instance, the antelope or gazelle repeatedly and maliciously tricks other animals, especially the leopard, an animal otherwise symbolic of chiefly power and overwhelming force...  The relationship between such imagery and divination is somewhat diffuse;  it may be that the frailty of these animals and their ultimate triumph over overwhelming odds symbolically parallel the divination process."  (p. 58)


          Although owl-headed figures do appear among the Yaka, the only specific reference to the owl that I have identified is a related discussion of owl symbolism among the Luunda in an article which explores Ndembu, Luunda and Yaka and divination ["Ndembu, Luunda and Yaka Divination Compared: From Representation and Social Engineering to Embodiment and Worldmaking" by Filip de Boeck & Rene [Renaat] Devisch].  Although this reference applies more directly to the ideation within the Luunda complex of thought, a closer reading to determine the inter-relationship of Luunda and Yaka ideas and practices may reveal the relevance of this detail to symbolic thought among the Yaka:  


          "Diviners also say that 'the muyoomb tree is an owl'. As stated above, themuyoomb represents the ancestors in the ancestral shrines, and symbolizes (matrilineal) descent. In the saying the diviner compares himself to themuyoomb, which is the most important tree in terms of life-transmission and the continuation of the lineage, in the same way as the owl is the most important bird of sorcery. Like the owl sees at night, the diviner/tree sees during the day.  The association with the muyoomb relates the diviner to his ancestors, and thereby to the matrilineal source of life flow..."


          Other resources for the study of the Yaka slit drum and the symbolism inherent in implements used in Yaka divinatory practices include:


          René Devisch, "The Slit-Drum and Body Imagery in Mediumistic Divination among the Yaka" in John Pemberton III, ed., Insight and Artistry in African Divination.  Washington, DC and London:  Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000.


          René Devisch, "The slit drum and the birth of divinatory utterance in the Yaka milieu," pp. 97-109 in Luc de Heusch, ed., Objects:  Signs of Africa.  Brussels:  Snoeck-Ducaju & Zoon, 1995.


          Lee



          On Oct 2, 2009, at 10:38 AM, Joseph wrote:


          I have been pouring through my books and other sources trying to figure this one out.I think I see Luba motifs suggested in the geometric patterns. I don't expect it has any real age to it. The carving is very nice. Sound, excellent. Can anyone tell me what this is and if the twin antelope and owl have any traditional precedent?

          Joe


          http://groups.yahoo.com/group/African_Arts/photos/album/606318878/pic/852788221/view






        • Paul DeLucco
          Greetings,   I liked Lee s comment concerning the transformation from oracular device to charm ... reminding us of the changing role and significance of
          Message 5 of 6 , Oct 9, 2009
          • 0 Attachment
            Greetings,
             
            I liked Lee's comment concerning the transformation from oracular device to "charm"... reminding us of the changing role and significance of objects in response to their transit and the milieu of changing social realities...  
             
            In this context, it is notable that the slit gong is also often transformed from oracular device to healing device.  Yaka healers working in the mbwooloo tradition often mix medicines in a slit gong and pour from it, as from a cup, to serve their patients directly. 
             
            Regards,
             
            Paul
             
             

            --- On Fri, 10/9/09, M.E.F. <mfliegelmann@...> wrote:

            From: M.E.F. <mfliegelmann@...>
            Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Identify Slit Drum? [3 Attachments]
            To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
            Date: Friday, October 9, 2009, 5:11 AM

             
            Here is my own: just for the catalogue. Regards, MF

            --- On Sun, 10/4/09, Lee Rubinstein <LeeRubinstein@ mac.com> wrote:

            From: Lee Rubinstein <LeeRubinstein@ mac.com>
            Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Identify Slit Drum?
            To: African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com
            Date: Sunday, October 4, 2009, 6:28 PM

            For additional on-line access to information pertaining to the Yaka slit-drum and divination practices, also see the example included in "Art and Oracle: African Art and Rituals of Divination" on the site of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Part 3 of the article on "Divination Practice in sub-Saharan Africa" by John Pemberton III pertaining to Yaka divination practice:

            This example is particularly interesting for its transformation from oracular device to "charm"... reminding us of the changing role and significance of objects in response to their transit and the milieu of changing social realities...  

            Lee

            On Oct 3, 2009, at 3:08 PM, joseph anderson wrote:


            Thanks for pointing me in the right direction. The slit drum is definitely Yaka. I found double faced examples with animals perched on top of the hood like shape. The drum shape is very traditional. I also found a Yaka mask with the same style antelope or gazelle. Also a couple of carved figures with the owl face. The figures, one female and one male are carved as if the owl is worn as a mask.
            Again, thanks for your help.
            Joe

            On Oct 3, 2009, at 11:13 AM, Lee Rubinstein wrote:

            Joe:


            Although the symbolic implications of the owl and antelope as surmounting elements on the slit drum are not clearly understood (simpler representations of human heads surmounting the drum are more common although these and other zoomorphic representations do appear), the likely origin of the drum itself is presumably Yaka or Suku.   Such slit drums belongs to the class of divinatory instruments known as mkoku or mukoku  (sing., nkoku -- also, n-kooku and nkookwangoombu) used in ngoombu divinatory practice.  


            Suggestive of possible directions for further exploration of the animal symbolism in particular, Arthur Bourgeois wrote in his article, "Mukoku Ngoombu:  Yaka Divination Paraphernalia" (African Arts Volume XVI, No. 3/May, 1983, pp. 56-59, n. 80):


            "Other Yaka and Suku slit-drums feature an antelope, bird or tortoise image surmounting the carved head.  Although these animals were described by diviners as having no significance other than as decoration provided by the sculptor, one must not conclude that such representations are meaningless.  These animals are associated with various charms and charm ingredients. .. animals are a food source, have a significance in hunting mystique, and also present analogies to human character types in folktales.  Although their appearance on slit-drums and elsewhere may simply be decorative, they also have a much broader significance.  In folktales, for instance, the antelope or gazelle repeatedly and maliciously tricks other animals, especially the leopard, an animal otherwise symbolic of chiefly power and overwhelming force...  The relationship between such imagery and divination is somewhat diffuse;  it may be that the frailty of these animals and their ultimate triumph over overwhelming odds symbolically parallel the divination process."  (p. 58)


            Although owl-headed figures do appear among the Yaka, the only specific reference to the owl that I have identified is a related discussion of owl symbolism among the Luunda in an article which explores Ndembu, Luunda and Yaka and divination ["Ndembu, Luunda and Yaka Divination Compared: From Representation and Social Engineering to Embodiment and Worldmaking" by Filip de Boeck & Rene [Renaat] Devisch].  Although this reference applies more directly to the ideation within the Luunda complex of thought, a closer reading to determine the inter-relationship of Luunda and Yaka ideas and practices may reveal the relevance of this detail to symbolic thought among the Yaka:  


            "Diviners also say that 'the muyoomb tree is an owl'. As stated above, themuyoomb represents the ancestors in the ancestral shrines, and symbolizes (matrilineal) descent. In the saying the diviner compares himself to themuyoomb, which is the most important tree in terms of life-transmission and the continuation of the lineage, in the same way as the owl is the most important bird of sorcery. Like the owl sees at night, the diviner/tree sees during the day.  The association with the muyoomb relates the diviner to his ancestors, and thereby to the matrilineal source of life flow..."


            Other resources for the study of the Yaka slit drum and the symbolism inherent in implements used in Yaka divinatory practices include:


            René Devisch, "The Slit-Drum and Body Imagery in Mediumistic Divination among the Yaka" in John Pemberton III, ed., Insight and Artistry in African Divination.  Washington, DC and London:  Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000.


            René Devisch, "The slit drum and the birth of divinatory utterance in the Yaka milieu," pp. 97-109 in Luc de Heusch, ed., Objects:  Signs of Africa.  Brussels:  Snoeck-Ducaju & Zoon, 1995.


            Lee



            On Oct 2, 2009, at 10:38 AM, Joseph wrote:


            I have been pouring through my books and other sources trying to figure this one out.I think I see Luba motifs suggested in the geometric patterns. I don't expect it has any real age to it. The carving is very nice. Sound, excellent. Can anyone tell me what this is and if the twin antelope and owl have any traditional precedent?

            Joe


            http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/African_ Arts/photos/ album/606318878/ pic/852788221/ view







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