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Tchokwe Chisaluke mask

Tchokwe Chisaluke mask
Tchokwe Chisaluke maskTchokwe Chisaluke maskTchokwe Chisaluke maskTchokwe Chisaluke mask
Tribe: Tchokwe
Country: Angola
Ritual: Mukanda
Name: Chisaluke
Materials: Wood, twigs, woven vegetable fibre
Provenance: Coll. Andrew Turley Northern Namibia 2010. Suaga Collection from 2010
Comments: This mask is carved in a relatively hard wood with distinctive shark-tooth patterns across the brow, below the nose and around the edge that are substituted for cloth and paper on masks made of more ephemeral material. The wear patterns and reasonably deep patination lead me to date it circa 1980.

Chisaluke is an anthropomorphic face mask, usually constructed from ephemeral materials (twigs, fibres and pitch) but also carved in wood like this example.

It is a male tutelary spirit whose main role is linked to the mukanda initiation. It is the only mask character duplicated within an initiation camp, since each initiate should have his own Chisaluke as a tutelary ancestor. They appear during the final 2 or 3 weeks of the initiation and take an active role in revising the dancing skills of the initiates before their graduation. Chisaluke dances vary according to the occasion and take on different behavioural attributes to complement specific mukanda events.

Facial features are carved in wooden versions or applied in paper and/or pieces of cloth in those of a more ephemeral nature. A beard of fibres is tied or glued to the chin area of the mask and the main distinguishing feature is three small round lobes extending from the forehead - the three protruding lumps on the top of the forehead are interpreted as "wrinkles". The teeth are inset leather or carved wood and the rim of the mask is often made of animal hair.

The mask was once attached to a hand-woven costume that would have covered the neck and the rest of the body consisting of shorts instead of a skirt. The complete costume can also be accompanied by the wearing of a fuifui (phallic appendage)

Chisaluke is received in the village by women as a heroic character and in some initiations Chisaluke jumps over the seated initiates to conclude the mukanda-related events."


  1. "CHOKWE - Art and Initiation Among Chokwe and Related Peoples" by Manuel Jorda
  2. African Masks of the Barbier Mueller Collection. Prestel Verlag Munich. 1998.
  3. A History of Art in Africa, Harry N. Abrams Inc, New York. 2001