Chair Struts -
Headboards - Angola
Chokwe and related
peoples transformed functional objects into prestige court art commemorating the
power and status of the chief. Chokwe thrones often included elaborate
figurative scenes - symbolic microcosms of life - or depictions of ancestors and
chiefs. The chairs are amongst the few African objects not carved from a single
piece of wood, but instead assembled in parts we call struts. Owners of these
status symbols were invariably chiefs. Our set of early collected carved struts
includes a rare plaque
or bed headboard.
Upper Chair Strut
The upper strut of the
collection displays two Chihongo figures joining hands. African wrought nails remain on either side of
these highly stylized carvings.
is a chiefly male spirit
who appears at special royal events and ceremonies, such as initiations for the
sons of chiefs, or the investiture of a new chief. He is friendly and displays
vitality, power and wealth, aspects depicted by a disc styled beard and an
Above left, chief Chauto as
photographed in 1903 by Fonseca Cardoso. Above right, a Chihongo costume
published in: Os Akixi (Mascarados)
do Nordeste de Angola.
Second Portion - Plaque
The second plank
from the top dates to 1910. It was made in Dondo Angola, where Portuguese 'Quirion da
Fonseca' organized the 'Diamang' workshop at the museum. Elaborate carved
plaques were decorated with ancestral representations and pokerwork 'scorched
patterns', to use as headboards over small beds. Pokerwork may have been introduced
to Angola by the
Portuguese, as they observed the widespread technique in Portuguese South East
Center Double Faced Back Strut
The third double faced
strut from the top includes portions of the original chair. It
was made in Angola by
Luchazi people, who migrated into Zambia from 1920.
owner was attracted to Zambia (Northern Rhodesia), by a missionary hospital
at Chavuma. The struts two stylized faces
are ancestral representations, also found on Chokwe and related
peoples combs, drums and
The lower chair strut
includes three carved heads. It was sold at
Sotheby's NY in the 1970's and remains with their tag dated to the period.
The center head sports a stunning coiffure of 19th century origin and a
horizontal figure 8 mouth. Matching tortoise representations
are found on either side.
The struts great age is confirmed by
carved facsimiles of Chihongo, framing either side of the central head.
assemblage is offered as a unit on a custom made stand. (above)
These rare struts depict a variety of
Chokwe and related peoples coiffures. Artists detailed and thus
recorded, old styles that celebrate the high fashion achieved at
what became the highlight of Chokwe court art.