African art > African mask > Tchokwe Mask
Masque Chokwe Pwo (N° 14646)
An African mask that intervenes during the initiation ceremonies of the adult state, the mukanda , marking among other things the end of the special bond between a son and his mother. This copy devoid of accessories, symbol of the first ancestor, offers checkered keloids forming stripes on the cheeks. The mouth opens on lined teeth, a criterion of feminine beauty in the Chokwe. A large headband engraved with parallel lines demarcates the forehead. The asymmetry of the sculpture is noteworthy. The nose flags bear witness to the attention to detail. Erosions of the chocolate patina. Smooth, sainy surface. 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 the course festive ceremonies. Joined to their male counterparts, chihongo recognizable by their large plateau-shaped headdress, the pwo must 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 north-eastern Angola. The characteristic patterns 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 meaning. Always worn by higher-ranking insiders, these female masks were often emblazoned with buttons and accessories of European origin.
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(source: Chokwe, B. Wastiau)
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