Lot: 391

Mask "chikunza", before 1880

D. R. Congo, Chokwe - Angola/Zambia, Luena

Provenance Size Hammer price
Ernst Hieber, Brombach/Basel, Switzerland (acquired between 1880 and 1895)
Fritz Hieber, Brombach/Basel, Switzerland
Jean David, Zurich, Switzerland (2003)
German Private Collection, Berlin
H: 49.6 inch 5400 EUR

framework of twigs/plant fibre, coated with bark cloth and resinous materials, painted with coloured pigments, tubes from bundled blades of grass, abundant grass fibre cuff, slightly dam., rest. (nose), mass missing in parts. The masquerade character "chikunza" is one of many "makishi" (= mask characters) found among the Chokwe, Luvale/Lwena, Luchazi, Lunda, and Mbunda peoples. "Chikunza" represents ancestor spirits and is considered as patron and protector of the "mukanda" men's initiation. It is an aggressive mask character with anthropomorphic exaggerated features whose role is "to protect the initiation camp from intruders, physical or supernatural". It is performed during "mukanda" rites, ceremonial events, such as the enthronement of chiefs and other occasions. According to Jordán, the dancers whole body was covered by a fibre costume with a skirt of raffia fringe or beaten bark around the hips. He held a sacred tree branch/flywhisk in one hand and a machete in the other hand, which he used to threaten women and the uninitiated. "Chikunza" was considered very important and was kept in the "nzo ya muuya", the house of the power emblems of the chief. Furthermore the "chikunza" mask is symbolically associated with human fertility and success in hunting. "Chikunza's" tall, conical head refers to a type of grasshoper that has the same name and a similarly elongated head.

Jordán, Manuel (ed.), Chokwe!, München, London, New York 1998, ill. 93 f.
Eisenhofer, Stefan & Karin Guggeis, Afrikanische Kunst, München, Berlin 2002, p. 93, ill. 91; Jean David & Gerhard Merzeder, Chokwe and their Bantu neighbours, Zurich 2003, p. 076