Lot 31. SOLD Estimate: $4,500-$7,500
Composition wood (one piece), natural pigment stain, fiber Dimensions: 9" / 25 cm Age: early 20th century Provenance: Ex. Galerie Philippe Laermans, Brussels (Belgium) Description: This elegant and refined mask, of extremely high quality and great expression, represents the ideal of feminine beauty for the Chokwe Tribe of the DR Congo and is known as ""Mwana Pwo"". This particular example employs the use of incised broad brushed facial scarification patterns and at one time and still has its beautiful and inventive hairstyle intact; the hairstyle was typically thought to represent prosperity and wealth. This example shows layers of patina and has evidence of old encrustation and sediment in grooves of the mask. It is in superb condition and is very moving and emotive in person. As many tribal art scholars believe, Pwo masks are among the most elegantly carved masks found anywhere in Africa, and this example is an excellent illustration of fine Chokwe carving. The photo inset, right is of a Pwo mask in its indigenous context (photo unattributed). About the Chokwe: Ancestor veneration is an important part of Chokwe life, and many families still worship the original Chokwe ancestor who broke from the Luba tribe in the 15th century and founded the Chokwe. The Chokwe are governed by a king called Mwana Ngana, who distributes hunting grounds and cultivated areas; the male Mugonge and female Ukele societies regulate social life. The vast majority of Chokwe objects are decorated with figures and geometric scarification motifs, as seen on this piece, which the people employ for initiation and other tribal ritual use as they pass through various life stages and achievements. (Ref: Bacquart, “Tribal Arts of Africa”).