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The Chokwe people live in Angola, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo and are well known for the beautiful masks and sculptures they produce.
The Chokwe hold regular masquerades called makishi and one of the most important makishi characters represents the ideal woman. She is either conceived as a “fulfilled” woman, called Pwo or a younger, “potential” woman called Mwana Pwevo. In public performances, women escort the female ancestor Pwevo to the centre of the village, where she is received ceremonially by the head of the village. Pwevo, a female role model, is a beautiful woman who speaks gracefully and displays gentle manners; she also demonstrates considerable assertiveness by orchestrating specific songs and instructing the drummers to accompany her dances on cue. Pwevo also directs and engages the public through hand gestures and with implements that may include a whistle, an adze, or a flywhisk. Pwevo dances are characterized by short steps and sensuous hip movements, which are emphasized by a bustle, tied around the hips, consisting of a bundle of cloth, strings, and rattling objects. Pwevo may also honour women as providers by dancing with a fishing basket or pretending to pound maize inside a mortar. To highlight her supernatural attributes as an ancestral spirit, Pwevo sometimes dances on stilts or performs acrobatic skits. Although Pwevo represents a woman and a female role model, she is created by men and performs in events related to mukanda male initiation. Women accept this male concept of the ideal female if they feel the performance honours them, but they may “chase away” a performer whom they feel is not up to their standards. In fact, the best female dancers in the community often dance alongside Pwevo to test the skills of the impersonator. An adept Pwevo performer is appreciated and enjoyed by all, and new songs are sometimes created to celebrate a particularly talented dancer. Women also might give the performer an alternative name, which women can use strategically to request his reappearance. Although women usually know who is performing a particular mask, this knowledge is a secret regulated by men and their mukanda camp, because all performers are seen as spiritual entities. To avoid infringing the rules of mukanda secrecy, women can request a favoured performer by calling out his alternative name.
This mask shows no scarification marks on the cheeks – an indication that it represents the younger woman – Mwana Pwevo.
Size: 350mm x 350mm x 170mm
1 in stock