Item: Chiwa Mask Specifications: 25 x 20.5 x 14.5 cm Origin: Malawi (see ethnographic notes below) Medium: Timber Carving & Polychrome Pigments. Provenance: Arthur Rudner Collection, Cape Town (1950's) then Michel Fachau 'Profiles of Africa Collection, Cape Town then Private Collection, Melbourne.
The Chewa people are matriarchal Bantu-speaking ethnic group living Central, East and Southern Africa. They are found in Malawi (where they are predominant), Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The Chewa are closely related to people in surrounding regions such as the Tumbuka and Nsenga. They are historically also related to the Bemba, with whom they share a similar origin in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As with the Nsenga and Tumbuka, a considerable part of Chewa territory came under the influence of the Ngoni, who were of Zulu or Natal/Transvaal origin. An alternative name, often used interchangeably with Chewa, is Nyanja. Their language is called Chichewa. Internationally, the Chewa are mainly known for their masks and their secret societies, called Nyau, as well as their agricultural techniques.