240434 - Rare Old African Chihongo mask from the Chokwe - Congo.


Extremely Rare Antique African chihongo mask from the Chokwe with feathers, Congo.
Height: 50 cm and collected in the mid of the 20th century and with Certificate of Authenticity.

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.The Chokwe are members of a large cultural cluster that now lives in central Angola, parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia. This cluster consists of a number of different but related peoples, the most prominent of which are the Chokwe, but the cluster also includes the Lunda, Ovimbundu, Lwena, Luvala, Mbwela and Imbangala. As a result of the complex interaction between people, the region has shared stylistic elements and figurative forms based on shared mythologies and ritual practices. The current mask called Mwana pwo depicts a beautiful young woman and represents the female ancestor. Mwana pwo mask appears at the initiation and circumcision ceremonies of young boys (Mukanda). Mwana Pwo also dances at the induction of a new chief, at funerals and fertility rituals, and during public entertainment. During the performance, Mwana Pwo is always accompanied by male character masks such as Cihongo or Cikunza. Mwana Pwo's dancer attracts a very large audience, especially women. The grace and elegant gestures of the pwo mask teach Chokwe women to act gracefully. Mwana Pwo reflects all the positive qualities of an ideal woman who can serve as a Chokwe role model.