Staff with figures and head in relief

Chokwe peoples
19th–20th century
more object details

General Description

Decorated spears are part of the regalia of a Chokwe chief (mwanangana), who serves as an intermediary between the world of humans and the realm of the ancestors and spirits. This concept of sacred kingship was introduced by Mbidi Kiluwe, the legendary founder of the empire, who was also a skillful hunter.

The carved images on the shaft of copulating couples and figures holding rifles symbolize fertility, the continuity of the royal lineage, and hunting. The lines coiling around the lower part of the shaft are stylized snakes, referring to earth spirits. The human heads, partly placed upside down, may represent ancestral royals. Imported brass carpet tacks were highly valued and found only on objects belonging to individuals of high social and political rank. Inserted into the top of the spear is a finely crafted blade.

Excerpt from

Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, Arts of Africa, 2015.