Belgian African art collection.African Chokwe pwo masks, among the many akishi masks (sing: mukishi, indicating power) d he African Chokwe tribal art, are exclusively female representations which were accompanied by accessories and finery.
Joined to their male counterparts, cihongo recognizable by their large headdress in the shape of a plate, the pwo must bring fertility and prosperity to the community.
The characteristic patterns present on the forehead, and sometimes on the cheekbones, are part of the Chokwe aesthetic canons but also served as public markers of ethnic identity.
This recurring cruciform frontal motif would also carry a cosmogonic significance.
Always worn by initiates of higher rank, these female masks were often decked out with buttons and accessories of European origin. Teeth cut to a point used to be a criterion of beauty.
These masks were mainly worn during initiation ceremonies for the transition to adulthood, marking, among other things, the end of the privileged bond between a son and his mother. The scarifications on the cheeks, here barely visible, refer to the grief of the mother. A solid wicker and raffia frame forms a realistic headdress on which woolen balls represent the hair. This mask is oiled, giving a matte patina under which a light wood is exposed. Very slight abrasions, crack at the chin.
(source: Chokwe, B. Wastiau)
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