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

Carving depicting a decapitated figure, the torso supported on the left by the tail of a curved reptile-like creature, both resting on an oval base. The decapitated figure's head is monkey-like with a low forehead, the eye on the left closed, and an open, toothy mouth. The arms are raised with elongated fingers on the hands, and they rest behind the large protruding ears to support the head. An elongated, smooth tongue emerging from the reptile's open mouth supports the larger figure's left arm.