Mwanangana (Chief Figure)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


Similar to Chibinda Ilunga figures, Mwanangana (meaning ‘Lord of the Land’ / pl. Mianangana) figures are carved to represent village chiefs, reminding villagers about the power these chiefs possess as well as to represent and show respect to past ancestors. The chiefs are depicted as heirs to the Chokwe founding leader Chibinda Ilunga and are therefore considered to be God-like mediators between earth and the spirits and ancestors.

Distinguishing Features

  • Made of wood
  • Height = 16 - 20 inches
  • Muscular body
  • Large hands (represent power)
  • Large wide feet (represent ability to walk long distances)
  • Broad facial features
  • Large eyes
  • Knees bent
  • Attention to details including toenails and fingernails
  • Sometimes depicted holding figures (these are male and female ancestors; mahamba)
  • Sometimes features a long plaited and bound beard of real hair (symbols of aristocracy)
  • 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
  • Carved nude

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