Getting Rid of Bugs
Most traditional African carvings are composed of materials which are organic...and therefore edible. Not to you perhaps, but to a variety of hungry insects.
Typically the first clue that bugs have made a home in your piece is a sprinkling of “sawdust.” Tap out the dust and brush the piece thoroughly. This way, once you’ve evicted the bugs, you’ll be able to tell that no more dust is being produced. Persuading the bugs to move out can be difficult though.
Your first plan of attack should be a freeze-thaw cycle. Wrap up your piece to prevent freezer-burn (a couple Zip-Loc or garbage bags should do the trick) then place it in your freezer. Obviously this requires a freezer large enough to accommodate your piece—big chest freezers are particularly useful to African art collectors! Try keeping your piece frozen for a week, then let it thaw for three days and pop it back in the freezer for another week. The reasoning here is that some eggs may survive the first freeze, so another freeze gives you a chance of eliminating the second generation too.
If your piece just won’t fit in your freezer and you live in a cold climate with below zero winters, a garage, storage locker, or back porch for a month in the winter gives a decent freeze-thaw cycle. Also, feather and furs are almost guarantees you’ll be visited by bugs at some point, so freeze pieces with these materials at least once a year.