240316 - Old African Chihongo passport mask from the Chokwe - Congo.


Old African Chihongo passport mask from the Chokwe, Congo,
Height: 30 cm and 25 cm wide.
Chihongo (male ancestor) mask. The most popular and best-known masks are chihongo, spirit of power and wealth, and pwo, his consort. Chihongo was formerly worn only by a chief or by one of his sons as they traveled through their realm exacting tribute in exchange for the protection that the spirit masks gave. The wearer’s body was entirely covered by braided fiber. A net costume and a broad dance skirt made of vegetable fibers complete the masquerade. His identity was therefore secret. Embodying also the spirit of wealth, he was meant to bring the village prosperity. It has been also used in many festivals to summon the spirit of strength. When it is not being worn, chihongo is kept in a safe place. While in former times the masks played important roles in religious beliefs and institutional practices, now many Chokwe masks have come to be used primarily for entertainment.