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

Distorted head at the top of the sculpture has a pointed ear and two round bulging eyes while it rests on a flat incised plane which forms hair for a large distorted head. Head has bulging oval eyes, a forehead, and a large nose. The mouth is a large cavity with a distended upper lip, and shows a large tongue and teeth. Laying across the upper lip, there is the back of a human figure, one of its arms of which rests on a head at the base. This head has bulging eyes, a wide nose, large upper teeth, a tongue, and no lower jaw. To the right of the head, there is a human figure seen from the back and side with its leg bent, head tilted back, and arm bent and holding an oval form to its mouth. Two squatting human forms, one above the other, are at the back of the sculpture, and seen from the rear with profile heads and pointed ears. Deep knot in wood from base to mid-section of sculpture.