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Tchockwe Mwana Pwo mask

Tchockwe Mwana Pwo mask
Tchockwe Mwana Pwo maskTchockwe Mwana Pwo maskTchockwe Mwana Pwo maskTchockwe Mwana Pwo mask
Tribe: Tchokwe
Country: Angola
Ritual: Entertainment
Name: Mwana Pwo
Materials: Wood, copper, fibre, rope netting, sinew.
Provenance: Coll. Niels Anderson 1995. Andrew Turley, SuagaCollection 1996.
Comments: Based on wear, patina, repairs, scarification pattern and style the age is estimated circa 1960.

Pwo represents a female ancestor. The character is very active during Mukanda events, with numerous appearances for the enjoyment of the people celebrating the event. It also appears at other ceremonial occasions including the investiture of chiefs (where it may lead processions) and political rallies.

Pwo, a female role model, is a beautiful woman who speaks gracefully and displays gentle manners; she also demonstrates assertiveness by orchestrating songs and instructing drummers to accompany her dance on cue. She may also engage the public with a whistle, adze or flywhisk. Her serene expression commands respect and helps support the authority of the Tchokwe rulers. Most share the depiction of facial scarification patterns, filed teeth, tear motifs and cingelyengelye (maltese cross/cruciform markings).

The Tchokwe do not recognise a paramount leader but instead offer allegiance to local chiefs, who inherit their positions from the maternal uncle. All members of the tchokwe society are divided into two categories: those descended from the founding matrilineal lines and those descended from former enslaved populations.

The royal court from matrilineal lines dominates and many of their art objects celebrate its validity. The art all has its foundations in wood - ornately carved stools, chairs used as thrones and masks. Originating in Angola and now inhabiting south western Congo and northern Zambia they are exposed to vegetation that grades through forest into savannah woodland.

All Tchokwe masks are worn by men and can be categorised in 3 ways:

  1. the sacred mask worn by the chief
  2. initiation masks
  3. dance masks

Both dance masks - Mwana Pwo and her male counterpart Cihongo - typically have the cingelyengelye on the forehead and is characteristic of both Tchokwe and Lunda. This mask has raised scarification patterns on the forehead, below and beside the eyes, cheeks and chin. Each of the ears have double copper rings in place and a woven net is attached to hold the mask in place. There is a repair to the lower right hand side of the mask with sinew tightly binding the break. Inside the mask is very smooth and well worn.


  1. A History of African Art, Harry. N. Abrams Inc Publisher NY. 2001.
  2. African Masks of the Barbier Mueller Collection. Prestel Verlag Munich. 1998.
  3. Mask Categories. Chokwe.com. Online. 2001.