African art > African mask > Tschokwe Mask
Chokwe Mask (N° 19399)
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.
The 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 tray-shaped headdress, the pwo are supposed to bring fertility and prosperity to the community. The cultural logic of these two icons developed during the pre-colonial period still continues to inspire artists in northeastern Angola today.
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 recurring cruciform frontal motif would also have cosmogonic significance.
Always worn by higher-ranking initiates, these female masks were often adorned with buttons and accessories of European origin.
Dark patina, shiny reflections, white clay residues. Cracks of desiccation.
(source: Chokwe, B. Wastiau)
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