Global Art & Artifacts

Museum Quality Chokwe Mwana PWO Mask. Congo. DRC.  Africa

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This stunning mask is from the Chokwe people of the Congo with similar masks coming from Angola.  Mwana Pwo masks are hand carved by a craftsman to represent an ancestral spirit of Pwo or the archetype of womanhood and fertility.  Such efforts are significant given the Chokwe trace descent through their mothers’ lines.


Scarification, finely slit eyes, carefully carved ears and nose, beads and a crafted headdress are part of the beauty of this mask.


Notice the Cosmogram carved in the forehead, a core symbol of the tribes/people around the Congo . . . with occurence noted as far back as the late 1400s.  The carving summarizes a broad array of ideas and metaphoric messages that comprised their sense of identity within the cosmos.


Robert Thompson, an American historian specializing in the art of Africa, says this about these forehead carvings:   “Coded as a cross, a quartered circle or diamond, a seashell spiral, or a special cross with solar emblems at each ending – the sign of the four moments of the sun is the Kongo emblem of spiritual continuity and renaissance par excellence. In certain rites it is written on the earth, and a person stands upon it to take an oath, or to signify that he or she understands the meaning of life as a process shared with the dead below the river or the sea – the real sources of earthly power and prestige, in Kongo thinking.  The intimation, by shorthand geometric statements, of mirrored worlds within the spiritual journey of the sun, is the source and illumination of some of the more important sculptural gestures and decorative signs pertaining to funerary monuments and objects designated for deposit on the surface of funerary tombs, or otherwise connected with funerary ceremonies and the end of life.”  As a side note, this is the first time I have seen this type of symbol on a mask which could have some special significance and / or level of rarity.


This mask came from a Canadian Collector and its condition is excellent.  It is a bit smaller than many Chokwe masks which likely means that it was displayed rather than worn.


For the Serious Collector only!  Stand not included.



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