Tribal art > African mask > Chokwe Mask
Masque Chokwe Mukishi wa Pwo (N° 16463)
Ex-collection Swiss African art.
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African Mask of reduced volume intervening during the initiation ceremonies of passage to adulthood, the mukanda , marking among other things the end of the privileged bond between a son and his mother. This mask symbolizing the first ancestor, devoid of accessories, is engraved with checkerboards forming stripes on the cheeks depicting traditional keloid scars. The mouth shows off lime teeth, a criterion of feminine beauty in the Chokwe. Black brown satin patina. Desication crack. 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 in festive ceremonies. Joined to their male counterparts, chihongo recognizable by their large plateau-shaped headdress, the pwo are supposed 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 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. (source: Chokwe, B. Wastiau)
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