Always worn by initiates of higher rank, this type of African mask embodying a female ancestor was often embellished with accessories of European origin.
Textile braids, delimited by a thin raffia tiara, adorn the face with cut teeth and scarifications, public markers of ethnic identity. Satin orange-brown patina. Chip on the outline and slight crack.
Peacefully settled in eastern Angola until the 16th century, the Chokwé were then subjected to the Lunda empire from which they inherited a new hierarchical system and the sacredness of power.
African Chokwe pwo masks, among the many akishi (sing: mukishi, indicating power) masks of African Chokwe art, embody an ideal of beauty, Mwana Pwo, or the woman Pwo and appear nowadays during festive ceremonies.
Joined to their male counterparts, chihongo recognizable by their large plate-shaped headdress, the pwo are believed to bring fertility and prosperity to the community.
(source: Chokwe, B. Wastiau)
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