A wickerwork helmet, with textile braids on top of it representing a dense head of hair, adorns this African mask of the Chokwe. The hairstyle is reminiscent of that of the Chokwe women, which is coated with red clay.
A wide chiseled band delimits the forehead. The finely sculpted features are accompanied by decorative motifs reminiscent of the group's traditional scarifications. The distinctive patterns present on the forehead, and sometimes on the cheekbones, are part of the chokwe aesthetic canons, like the pointed teeth, but also served as public markers of ethnic identity.
The recurring cruciform frontal motif is furthermore thought to carry a cosmogonic significance.
Always worn by higher-ranking initiates, these female masks were often adorned with buttons and accessories of European origin.
Smooth red-brown patina.
Height on base: 42 cm.
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. The Chokwe did not have centralized power but large chieftaincies. 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.
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