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 considered as having magical powers; sometimes as carriers of fertility.

Physical description

Large, elongated reptilian-headed figure. Body extends from the head in the form of a loop. Thickness decreases gradually into a thin tail which is attached to the centre of the base. The eye on the left side of the head is large, open, and convex while the one on the right side is an empty socket. There are incised rigid marks on the eyelid of the left eye. Mouth is open and shows six upper frontal teeth.