Tribal art > African mask > Chokwe crest
Tschokwe crest (N° 20281)
br>According to the former owner of this carving, it was used among the Chokwe during circumcision ceremonies incorporating the initiation rites of passage to adulthood, the mukanda , which they held on their heads. Very strangely, however, its design is reminiscent of the ritual aerophones isumba mulimu of the Nande. The object is not hollowed out, however. Abraded matte patina.
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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. Nevertheless, the Chokwe never fully adopted these new social and political contributions. Three centuries later, the Chokwe eventually took over the capital of the Lunda, which had been weakened by internal conflicts, thus contributing to the dismantling of the kingdom. The Chokwe did not have a centralized power but rather large chiefdoms. It was these chieftainships that attracted artists who wished to put their skills at the exclusive service of the court. The artists created so many varied pieces of such quality that the Lunda court only employed them. From the XVIIIth century, the exchanges with the Europeans, the Portuguese in particular, influenced their sculptures.
African Chokwe pwo masks, among the many akishi (sing: mukishi, indicating power) masks of African Chokwe tribal art, embody an ideal of beauty, Mwana Pwo, or the female Pwo and appear nowadays during festive ceremonies.
Joined with their male counterparts, chihongo recognizable by their large, tray-shaped headdress, the pwo are meant to bring fertility and prosperity to the community.
(source: Chokwe, B. Wastiau)
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