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 sanctity of power. The African Chokwe pwo masks, among the many masks akishi (sing: mukishi, indicating power) of African tribal art Chokwe, embody an ideal of beauty, Mwana Pwo, or the woman Pwo and appear nowadays during festive ceremonies. Joined by their male counterparts, chihongo recognizable to their large tray-shaped headdresses, the pwo s supposed to bring fertility and prosperity to the community. The cultural logic of these two icons developed during the pre-colonial period continues to inspire artists in northeastern Angola. The characteristic motifs on the forehead, and sometimes on the cheekbones, are part of the chokwe aesthetic canons but also served as public markers of ethnic identity. The recurrent cruciform frontal pattern would also have a cosmogonic significance. Always worn by senior-grade insiders, these women's masks were often embed with buttons and accessories of European origin. This piece is embellished with a woolly hood and a raffia, linen, and cotton headdress, covering a basket frame. Cassures at the nose and ears originally adorned with metal jewellery. Locally abraded dark brown patina. (source: Chokwe, B. Wastiau)
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