african masksTchokwe Lunda
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A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden

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Tchokwe art and Lunda Tribes.

The Chokwe are well known for art objects produced to celebrate and validate the royal court. 

Tschokwe mask -ex Museum StapelenA female Tchokwe representation of a young girl (ex-Museum Stapelen)

© collection David Norden, Antwerp 

These objects include ornately carved stools and chairs used as thrones. Most of the sculptures are portraits, which represent the royal lineage. Staffs, scepters, and spears are among other implements sculpted to celebrate the court.

A complete Tschokwe Cihonga maskA fine male Tchokwe Cihonga mask

© collection David Norden, Antwerp 



Chokwe origin can perhaps be traced to the Mbundu and Mbuti Pygmies. 

Tchokwe-small-statue-profile.jpg (49722 bytes)A small Tschokwe statue, top of a staff.

© collection David Norden, Antwerp 

Between 1600 and 1850 they were under considerable influence from the Lunda states and were centrally located in Angola. In the second half of the 19th century though, considerable development of the trade routes between the Chokwe homelands and the Angolan coast led to increased trade of ivory and rubber. 


Wealth acquired from this allowed the Chokwe kingdom to expand, eventually overtaking the Lunda states that had held sway over them for so long. Their success was short-lived, however. The effects of overexpansion, disease, and colonialism resulted in the fragmentation of Chokwe power.

The Chokwe do not recognize a paramount leader, but instead offer allegiance to local chiefs who inherit their positions from the maternal uncle. The chiefs (mwana nganga) consult with a committee of elders and ritual specialists before making decisions. Villages are divided into manageable sections which are governed by family headmen. All members of Chokwe society are divided into two categories: those who are descended from the founding matrilineal lines and those who are descended from former enslaved populations.

The Chokwe recognize Kalunga, the god of creation and supreme power, and a series of nature and ancestral spirits (mahamba). These spirits may belong to the individual, family, or the community, and neglecting them is sure to result in personal or collective misfortune. Evil spirits may also be activated by sorcerers (wanga) to cause illness, and this must be counteracted to regain health. In order to accomplish this individuals normally consult with a diviner (nganga), who attempts to uncover the source of the patient's problem. The most common form of divination among the Chokwe is basket divination, which consists of the tossing of up to sixty individual objects in a basket. The configuration of the objects is then "read" by the diviner to determine the cause of illness.

info found at :


Although it is impossible to isolate specific examples of Lunda art, their political activity in the region and their patronage of artists living in neighboring ethnic groups influenced the artistic styles found throughout the region. It is believed that all objects historically linked to the Lunda were originally carved by neighbors, including Chokwe, Luba, Ding, and Lwena.

Lunda history is intricately tied to the peoples living throughout the entire region of south central Congo (Zaire), western Zambia, and northern Angola. From the early 17th century until the late 19th century when the Chokwe took over regional power, the Lunda empire was the dominant political and military force in this area of Africa. A political union with the neighboring Luba peoples dates back to a royal wedding between Lweji, daughter of a Lunda land chief, and Cibinda Ilunga, son of the first Luba king, Kalala Ilunga. Following this union many dissatisfied clans left the centralized Lunda area and colonized new areas of central Africa, extending the Lunda empire enormously. Lunda influence remained considerable from Lake Tanganyika almost to the Atlantic Ocean, until Chokwe and then colonial interventions diminished their power.

Nzambi is recognized as the supreme creator god, and appeals are never made directly to him. Instead, ancestor spirits, who are responsible for doing both good and bad, are called upon to fulfill individual and community requests at all major community functions. Divination plays an important role in maintaining a system of balance in the community, determining which spirits require appeasement and when such activities should occur. Basket divination and rubbing oracles are the most common forms of divination among the Lunda. Trees are planted in a sacred grove during chiefly succession rites to represent the ancestors of the current chief.

found at 


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Lega masks
Luba- Lion king
Tchokwe Lunda

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The Tribal Arts of Africa

The Tribal Arts of Africa
Author: Jean-Baptiste Bacquart

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