African art > African mask, tribal art, primitive art > Tschokwe mask
Chokwe Mwana Pwo mask (N° 20337)
Large braided hairstyle for this African mask of the Chokwe. This hairstyle is reminiscent of the red earth-coated hairstyle of the Chokwe women. A chiseled frieze of checkerboards delimits the forehead. Smooth reddish brown patina.
Peacefully settled in eastern Angola until the 16th century, the Chokwe were then subjected to the Lunda empire from which they inherited a new hierarchical system and the sacredness of power. Nevertheless, the Chokwe never fully adopted these new social and political contributions. Three centuries later, they eventually seized the capital of the Lunda weakened by internal conflicts, contributing to the dismantling of the kingdom. The Chokwé did not have centralized power but rather large chiefdoms. They were the ones who attracted artists eager to put their skills to the exclusive service of the court. The artists created so many varied pieces of such quality that the Lunda court employed only them.
The African Chokwe pwo masks ,among the many akishi or "akixi" (sing: mukishi , indicating power)of Chokwe tribal art, are exclusively female representations that were accompanied by accessories and adornments. They were, however, worn by high-ranking men.
Joined to their male counterparts, cihongo recognizable by their large, tray-shaped headdress, the pwo are meant to bring fertility and prosperity to the community.
The distinctive patterns present on the forehead, and sometimes on the cheekbones, are part of the chokwe aesthetic canons, as are the pointed teeth, but also served as public markers of ethnic identity.
This recurring cruciform frontal motif is furthermore thought to carry cosmogonic significance.
Always worn by higher-ranking initiates, these female masks were often adorned with buttons and accessories of European origin.
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