African art > African mask, tribal art, primitive art > Tschokwe mask
Tschokwe mask (N° 22156)
Always worn by initiates of higher rank, these African masks embodying a female ancestor mwana pwo were often adorned with buttons and accessories of European origin. A basketry helmet, stretched with woven raffia and vegetable fiber cords, extends the sculpted band of the hairstyle. Burgundy brown satin patina, gaps on the edges.
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Height on base: 36 cm.
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.
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 plate-shaped headdress, the pwo are believed 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 from North-East Angola today.
The characteristic patterns present 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 carry a cosmogonic significance.
(source: Chokwe, B. Wastiau)