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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Chokwe : Chokwe Ivory Pendant in the Form of a Mask
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Chokwe Ivory Pendant in the Form of a Mask - PF.5461 (LSO)
Origin: Southwestern Congo/Angola/Zambia
Circa: 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 5.75" (14.6cm) high x 3.875" (9.8cm) wide
Collection: African
Medium: Ivory

$3,000.00
Location: United States
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Description
This attractive ivory miniature mask was made by the Chokwe people. The face is exquisitely carved and appears to represent a female although this cannot be confirmed. The face is long, the brow domed and the chin pointed. The brow is banded with a complex coiffure or a piece of headwear. The facial features are all elongated, with a long, thin nose, very large eye sockets with closed, coffee-bean eyes, an open mouth with bared sharp teeth, slight detailing beneath the eyes and the complex geometric form, or cingelyengelye, on the forehead, which testifies to the early influence of Portuguese forces.

The Chokwe, or Tchokwe, are distributed across Angola, the DR of Congo and Zambia, and can trace their ancestry to the Lunda Empire of the 15th century, when a mass-migration occurred out of Lunda/Luba territory. The resulting kingdoms – including the Tchokwe, Luena, Songo, Ovimbundu and Imbagala – were all closely allied until the mid 19th century when the Tchokwe, following a great famine, migrated south. Their art and culture is thus distinctive compared to that of the other Lunda-descended tribes.

Society is governed by a God-King (Mwana Ngana), under whom men’s (Mugonge) and women’s (Ukule) societies control age classes and ensure social harmony. This system has resulted in a series of masks that are designed to defuse social tensions, celebrate important events (i.e. circumcisions), impose judiciary powers and promote fertility, health and well-being. Figures are rare, and usually represent Tshibinda Ilunga, the mythical founder of the Chokwe, and queen figures. The main mask forms for which the Tchokwe are known are the male Cihongo mask – which symbolises wealth, power and judicial authority – and the female Pwo mask, which is an embodiment of idealised femininity. The two “sexes” were sometimes danced together at ceremonies to ensure fertility and prosperity. This is a rare variant on the Pwo theme.

This is likely to constitute an item of regalia for a high-ranking member of society. By being made of ivory, which almost all African groups rank as being more valuable than gold, any standard function can be ruled out.

This is an impressive piece of African art.

- (PF.5461 (LSO))

 

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