Ceremonial adze with head and torso

Pende peoples
late 19th–20th century
more object details

General Description

On ceremonial occasions, a Pende chief carried an adze—like this one—over his shoulder. It is not an ordinary tool used to sculpt wood but an ornate version of the conventional model. This ceremonial adze features a head carved at the top of the handle.

Imported European brass upholstery tacks, considered luxury goods and kept to a high shine, adorn the figure’s head or skullcap. Both the hairstyle and scarification marks on the cheeks are found on Pende masks with visual references to both leadership and hunting, which is an important activity displaying bravery and skill. A very long iron blade issues from the figure’s mouth. At the back on the handle, a female bust carved in full relief is positioned upside down. When viewed in profile, the small skull-like head appears to be an exaggerated depiction of the head at the top of the adze.

Drawn from

  • Roslyn A. Walker, PhD, Label text, 2015.
  • Roslyn A. Walker,"Ceremonial adze with head and torso," in The Arts of Africa at the Dallas Museum of Art (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009), 84.