Chibinda Ilunga (Royal Ancestor Figure)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


The Chokwe believe that the Luba prince, Chibinda (or Tshibinda) Ilunga married Lunba chief Lueji and taught the Lunda and Chokwe civility and the art of hunting. Carved by professional Chokwe artists, figures of Chibinda Ilunga are created to remind villagers about their ancestor, his power, rank and position among Chokwe chiefs.

"The figure of Chibinda Ilunga came to represent the archetypal chief who maintains the well-being of his people, and he also served as a role model for men in Chokwe society.”1

Distinguishing Features

  • Made of wood
  • Height = 10 - 20 inches
  • Large hands (represent power)
  • Large wide feet (represent ability to walk long distances)
  • Broad facial features
  • Large eyes
  • Massive shoulders are carved thrown back
  • Knees bent
  • Attention to details including toenails and fingernails
  • Long beard of real hair (symbols of aristocracy)
  • Muscular body
  • Concave form to back
  • Typically portrayed wearing a chief’s headdress:
    • Chipanya mutwe: tri-lobed, upturned and flaring headdress, two lateral wings curve backwards
    • Mutwe wa kayanda: horn rises from the main cap and bends backwards, two lateral wings turn upwards
  • Can also be carved with the kaponde head ornament (narrow single or double headband across forehead sometimes enhanced with beads)
  • Carved nude except for the headdress and a number of implements. Implements can include:
    • A gun (uta wa mbanze)
    • A staff (cisokolu)
    • Hunting charms (mukata - often represented suspended from a strap across the chest or at the hunter’s waist)
    • Antelope horn (mbinga ya kai / ntengo - full of medicines to protect the hunter)
    • Tortoise shell (kafulu - full of magic medicines)
    • Hunters belt (on which hangs ngonga ammunition box, musase wa fundanga gunpowder calabash and kasau machete)

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