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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Chokwe : Chokwe Wooden Sceptre
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Chokwe Wooden Sceptre - LSO.555
Origin: Angola/Zaire
Circa: 1870 AD to 1920 AD
Dimensions: 11.5" (29.2cm) high
Collection: African Art
Medium: Wood

Location: Great Britain
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This sceptre was made by the Chokwe (or Tchokwe) people of Angola and Zaire. These symbols of office, which were owned and used by dignitaries as emblems of their status, came in a wide array of styles that reflect the specific histories of social units within the Tchokwe polity. Local rulers (mwanangana) headed a complex and multifaceted court structure that included the administration of the magicoreligious, economic and social spheres and their authority was reinforced by the regalia and artefacts created for them by artists hired specifically for that purpose. They are therefore highly prized and are rarely seen in such good condition as the current example. At 11.5" long it is relatively compact and is formed from a single piece of light wood that has become darkened through age and use. The lower third of the shaft is shaped to form a gripping handle and demonstrates considerable wear. The remainder of the shaft and finial have a glossy, dark patina. The shaft apex is marked by a transverse band of hatched design. The finial is carved into the form of a seated man, his hands cupping his chin and his elbows on his knees. The upright position, the headwear, the seat upon which he is sitting and his haughty expression all suggest that it represents a person of considerable social status-perhaps the individual for whom the sceptre was intended. The care with which the facial features have been carved, right down to the cingelyengelye (forehead scarring)- and the obvious use that it has received mark this as being a high status artefact of exceptional quality. - (LSO.555)


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