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

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

Physical description

A rounded humanoid figure bent at the waist and supported its right by a long slender leg, its foot resting on the ovoid base. Its left leg is bent at the knee with its foot is in a serpent's open mouth. The figure's right arm is a long thin arm with a claw-like hand that grasps the snake's body and the left arm rests on the left leg. The figure's head is turned to the right and has round eye sockets, a smiling mouth, and no hair. The base is incised with cross-hatched lines.