African art > African mask, tribal art, primitive art > Tschokwe Mask
Women's Mask Chokwe Mwana pwo (N° 19486)
Ex-Corsican African art collection.
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A wickerwork helmet, on which knotted textile strips form the curls of a dense hairstyle reminiscent of the red earth-coated hair of the Chokwe women. Harmonious features
of the face are finely chiselled, enhanced with traditional scarified patterns. Smooth satin orange brown patina.
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. Nevertheless, the Chokwé never fully adopted these new social and political contributions. Three centuries later, the Chokwé eventually seized the capital of the Lunda weakened by internal conflicts, thus contributing to the dismantling of the kingdom. The Chokwé did not have centralized power but large chieftaincies. They were the ones that attracted artists who wanted to put their know-how at 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 masks Chokwe pwo ,among the many masks akishi or "akixi" (sing: mukishi , indicating power) of Chokwe tribal art, are exclusively feminine representations which were accompanied by accessories and ornaments. They were, however, worn by high-ranking men.
Joined to their male counterparts, cihongo recognizable by their large tray-shaped headdress, the pwo should bring fertility and prosperity to the community.
The characteristic patterns 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.
This recurring cruciform frontal motif would also have cosmogonic significance.
Always worn by higher-ranking insiders, these female masks were often adorned with buttons and accessories of European origin.
These masks were mainly worn during the initiation ceremonies of passage to adulthood, marking among other things the end of the privileged bond between a son and his mother. The checkerboard scarification on the cheeks, here of discreet crosses, refers to the grief of the mother.
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|Material(s)||wood, raphia, textile|
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