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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Chokwe : Chokwe Wooden Cisola Divination Sculpture
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Chokwe Wooden Cisola Divination Sculpture - PF.5717 (LSO)
Origin: Angola
Circa: 19 th Century AD to 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 9.75" (24.8cm) high x 3.25" (8.3cm) wide
Collection: African
Style: Chokwe
Medium: Wood

Location: UAE
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This glowering yet compact female figure is a Cisola figure, made by the Chokwe of Angola. It is a very accomplished sculpture, with short, flexed legs, a longer torso, a tall neck and a beautifully-rendered face with low-relief features, rubbed smooth through use and age. Her hands are resting on her knees; other features include scarifications to the navel and stomach, pronounced breasts, a marked pudendum, and a hat that runs smoothly around the edge of the brow.

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. 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. Figures are rare, and usually represent Tshibinda Ilunga, the mythical founder of the Chokwe; exceptionally, there are queen figures such as the current example. Female ancestors are celebrated for their fertility, hence the marked sexual characteristics of the piece. They were used for fertility rituals, hence the dark patination and polish on the raised areas.

This is an exceptional piece of African art.

- (PF.5717 (LSO))


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