About this object

History of use

The Makonde were a matriarchal, agricultural society. Traditionally, it is thought, the sculpture of the Makonde was restricted to ceremonial and ritual goods. Shetani spirits or creatures, now seen in contemporary Makonde sculpture, were probably unknown before the advent of commercial art production in the mid-1950's. Tales of encounters with these rarely seen spirits or creatures were part of Makonde mythology and folklore and may have served as artistic inspiration for the pieces.

Cultural context

Commercial art.

Iconographic meaning

Serpents represent power, fertility or virility, and immortality. Magicians often appear with animal familiars.

Physical description

On one side the figures from the bottom to the top are as follows: a horse-like head and neck in profile facing to the left, a front facing human torso and head with a beard, downcast eyes, a closed mouth, and hair past its shoulders. A snake winds around the bottom of the horse's neck and up to the man's beard which is in the snake's open mouth. On the other side, the nose and mouth of the horse-like creature are seen, a large human face at the middle level is oval shaped and similar in style to the human head on the opposite side. Above the face, there is the back of the opposite head. On an orange-brown wood base.