Saturday, December 24, 2011

19th century Western African figure

Figure of Chibinda Ilunga, Angola, Chokwe, 19th Century; 
Ethnologisches Museum, SMB. Photo: Claudia Obrocki

The Chowke today live in north-western Angola and in the south-west of the Democratic Republic of Congo.The end of the slave trade in the first half of the 19th century, which had connected Africa, Europe, and America in a tight net of trade for several centuries, entailed a deep economic cut for the peoples living on the shores of Western Africa. Many communities of huntersand of refugees from the slave hunts came to wealth and political power through trade with products like Ivory and bees wax. Only in this process their identity as Chokwe emerged. Their political and economic expansion soon threatened long-established political organisations like the neighbouring kingdom of the Lunda. The numerous competing and trading leaders also bolstered their claim to power by promoting artistic expression. Chokwe artists integrated stylistic elements of the neighbouring African peoples and the Europeans into their own art and thus developed one of the most impressive styles of art of the African continent.

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