African Tribal Mask, Chokwe Mwanaphwo - Kasai, Zaire
Myths, lore & theories abound about this particular type of mwanaphwo (also referred to as mana pwo) mask including that it represents the most beautiful woman in a village: a beautiful young woman who died preparing for her wedding: a beautiful young woman who died prematurely - to mention just a few. They are believed to capture the soul & spirit of such a woman, and they symbolize the prominence women enjoy in the Chokwe's matrilineal society.
Though they represent a woman - they are only worn by male dancers. Used during initiation or coming of age ceremonies where the young woman's spirit is believed to enter the young male.
Typical Chokwe features include the slightly protruding forehead, elongated brow, slightly open coffee bean eyes, and whitened sharp teeth in an open mouth. The features are more refined with a softened mouth & thinner lips than in male Chokwe masks - and the shape of the face is slimmer with finer contours. The typical tears are represented, demarcations at the outsides of each temple and she bears a typical Cross on her forehead (not thought to be associated with Christianity). I am uncertain what the markings on the chin represent.
A beautiful vertically carved crown above the forehead is typical - but the use of glass beads trimming the glazed burlap skullcap is less so. Cowrie beads (expensive and rare) further support the theory of this mask representing a "very special" young woman. The bamboo strands represent a hairdo.
Darkened wood, pigment, kaolin, raffia cloth, bamboo, glass beads, metal, fibers, cowries & nut shells.
CONDITION: Very Fine. One missing Cowrie Shell. Excellent carving. Particularly expressive facial features. Beautifully aged patina. Acquired and brought to Canada in 1952. Late 19th, early 20th century.
Item ID: R290
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Exclusive Ruby Lane
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Toronto, ON, Canada
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