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Gallery Ezakwantu

African Art  - Art Africain - Tribal Art -  菲洲艺术 - Afrikanische Kunst


Central and Southern African Tribal Art

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Seated Power Figures


Ancestral seated figures of the Chokwe and related People







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Chiefs - Chokwe / Luvale / Lwena / Lunda



Chief Chinyama Litapi - Circa 1990 - (Senior Chief Ndungu 1992 till his death.)


The Lwena live in Angola - DRC and Zambia. The core of their population inhabits the area along the Lwena River in Angola. The Lwena expanded south and eastwards throughout the 19th century through trade (slaves and ivory). A palm known as mavale grew in vast plains in present day Zambia. Lwena who settled there became known as Luvale or Balovale. The plain itself was subsequently recorded on colonial maps as the Luvale Plain.




   Lunda King Kazembe Mwata Yav - Crawford 1924                    Chiefs Enclosure - Emil Torday - (1900-1909)


Aspects of the Luvale, Lwena, Chokwe (or Tshokwe) and other related people fall under the Lunda paramount chief - Mwata Yamvo (Mwaant Yav), who resides to the north - north east of the Luvale in the DRC. However, the Luvale were traditionally ruled by an elected chieftainship whose senior was Ndungu. Chief Ndungu lived at his (or her) royal palace at Chinyama Litapi, situated near the Angolan border north and west, with the Zambezi River to the east. For convenience sake, the British had the capital moved to Mize, which faces what had been a colonial outpost across the river, the outpost named Zambezi.





     Chief Kucheka Royal Enclosure - Circa 1992




Chief Kucheka - Circa 1992


The Kucheka chieftainship is important and falls under Senior Chief Ndungu. Chief Kucheka was photographed above with his drum barer holding a royal mukupelo, while a Zambian government appointed assistant held a historic Kucheka seated figure.





The figure was carved in the likeness of the first chief Kucheka (Kaumba Mutoshi), who ruled during the latter part of the 19th century. He is reported to have been a womanizer who dealt in slaves. It was carved after his death (between 1900 and 1944) by an Mbunda traveler. A female chief, the  second Chief Kucheka (Nyakamiji), had commissioned the figure. Her reign was followed by Chikenge Kucheka (1945-1975) and Davison Chinyama Pulu (1976- 1978.






The ancestral figure of Kucheka was highlighted with pokerwork and bone inlayed eyes. It is 57 centimetres tall and made of extremely hard heavy wood, realistic in style.





Large seated chief figures represented ancestors of the Chokwe, Luvale, Lwena, Luchazi and Mbunda cultures. Related examples have been collected in Angola, Congo and Zambian interconnected societies. The figures are not owned or inherited by the current chief, but held by the collective chieftainship. The Kucheka chief photographed in 1992 was therefore unable to sell the object. Its sale depended on a collective agreement, which ultimately required agreement from Senior Chief Ndungu, which was granted.  







 Seated Guardian Ancestral Figures


Minatare Divining Objects





Tutelary ancestral divination spirits known as Hamba Kayongo.




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A Chokwe - Luvale or Luchazi Kaponya




This  + - 19 centimetres tall figure was collected in 1991, a short distance from Kabompo Zambia, on the road leading to Zambezi. The area is mainly populated with Luchazi people, but also Chokwe and Luvale. Here, facial scarification overlaps between these tribes, as do language and custom. All three groups refer to this object as kaponya, camponya or kamponya - words denoting 'figure' or 'fetish figure'.





Chief from Kapanga - Belgian Congo - Pre 1920





The figures stylized coiffure is carved in a like fashion to related beaded crowns worn by chiefs (above).




Chokwe youth near Sandoa, Belgian Congo - Circa 1922 - Henri Bourguignon


Members of the public - perhaps royal - styled their hair in a similar manner.





The symmetric accomplishment of human shaped legs as supports for the stool, provides an ingenious contribution to the object. Both this and the ancestral Kucheka seated figure sport legs carved side by side, representing a chief's pose at council.





The artist carved this delightful figure with the skill of a master, and thus we are surprised to have encountered but a single example by his hand. It may well be it was traded into the area from a distant land.




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 Chokwe / Lunda - Seated Figure




This ancestral figural representation was discovered in Belgian, indicating probable origin as colonial Belgian Congo - DRC. As such, it was most probably carved by a Chokwe or Lunda artist. European styled chairs already appeared in Chokwe and related works by the mid 19th century. They were status symbols and indicative of the owners power.





It is likely the object was carved as a representation of a tutelary ancestral spirit - used for divination purposes called Hamba Kayongo. The male figure appears to be taking medicine, which some diviners are known to take before they make contact with the spirit world.





Sitting with crossed legs is frowned on in the vast region where Chokwe, Luchazi, Lunda and Luvale peoples reside. The message it sends is that you are hiding something. However, in divination crossed legs is symbolic of a diviner who reveals secrets. Shown together with the act of consuming medication, confirms this as a powerful, well executed divination object.






The rarely seen figure is carved from one piece of wood and stands at + - 30 centimetres.




This boldly carved object is powerful. Shoulders are solid, resembling those of Bembe works of the lower Congo River. Fine adze marks cover the old patinated surface.



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We hope you enjoyed the page of Chokwe Seated Figures


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Galerie Ezakwantu

Southern African Tribal Art - African Art 


Central and Southern African Tribal Art


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