Lwena Mask, Democratic Republic of Congo & Angola

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Item: Fine and Expressive Early 20th Cen Lwena mask. Specifications: 23.5 x 15 x 12.5 cm (relates to the size of the actual mask excluding fringing) Origin: Angola & Democratic Republic of Congo. Medium: Timber Carving, vegetal roping, animal hair.  Comments: Fine original patina. Provenance: Rudner Collection Cape Town, Collected by Arthur Rudner prior to 1954. Provenance Auction House, Cape Town then Private Collection Johannesburg.
This primarily Angolan tribe lives partially in DRC and in Zambia. Led by a king, the Mwana Yamvo, the Lwena people support themselves from fishing in the wet plains at the source of the Zambezi River, in Angola. The structure of Lwena art is largely based on that of the Chokwe, but includes a more refined use of full, round shapes, and differ also by the coiffures and scarifications on the cheeks and forehead. 


Artistically, the Lwena appear to have focused their skills on carving female figures, which are also found on decorative ‘prestige’ objects such as canes, combs and finger pianos, and on masks. These differ from those of the Chokwe as their statues usually display a spherical cross-hatched coiffure which is often divided by a vertical ridge, and angular linear scarifications on their cheeks. All in all, it is a very female art related to a tribal social structure in which women play important roles, including that of chief. 


Southern African Tribal Art from Angola, African Origins, Online Tribal Art Gallery, Melbourne, Australia.