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.

Physical description

Snake-like curvilinear intertwined figures that are mounted on a base. Two snake bodies terminating in four heads, two of which are reptilian and two of which are humanoid. Humaniod faces have open mouths with rows of teeth, accentuated cheekbones, large hollow eyes, and no hair. The upper most humanoid face has angular recessed eyes and a wide nose. The lower most humanoid face has circular recessed eyes, a flat nose, and a tongue. Reptilian faces have circular eyes and open mouths with rows of teeth. The upper most reptilian face is holding a tail end in its mouth.