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

Deeply striated solid figure with two sides divided vertically by a natural groove in the wood. A flat face with large teeth in the upper jaw and round eyes juts out from the top of the groove. On one side, there is a lateral view of a human figure with its eyes that appear closed, a mouth closed, and a set of teeth inset in the cheek. Two reptilian heads appear in front of the body, one beside the chest and a smaller one in front of the lower leg. Both reptiles face downward. To the right of the lower leg, there is a skull with a nose cavity, eye sockets, and teeth. Skull backs a very well formed human head. Head's right eye is closed while the left eye is open and the lids are depicted. Labret in the upper lip. Above the head, there are two small faces in relief: the left has eyes that appear closed; the one on the right has one eye closed and a mouth with teeth. Above, there is a large face that has a mouth with two rows of teeth and one round eye. Above this, and two the left, there is a face with a distorted mouth, four teeth, a nose, and two eyes, one almond shaped and one round. Appendage on the left of the figure is held over its forehead and merges into a flat face on the right which has one eye and a tooth filled mouth.