|Lwena or Luvale (Lovale) - Makishi Mwana Pwevo mask
Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia
|Lwena (?) Luvale/Lovale (?) Makishi Mwana Pwevo mask - Zambia
You often see these masks referred to as "Mwana" Pwo or "Mwana" Pwevo.
Mwana Pwo or Mwana Pwevo means a younger, potential woman.
Pwo or Pwevo alone refers to a fulfilled woman.
Walking Man Gallery
Ex Kaba Collection
Originally collected in Zambia before 1960
Mask portion measures 10 inches tall (the net is about 12 inches) (mask measures about 22 inches tall with attachments)
This example conforms to a defined Lwena style that is distinguished by gentle lines, a tendency toward naturalism, and a taste for round, full forms.
The consecutive arched beaded elements above the forehead resemble the crowns worn by male and female chiefs. This version of a mature and
accomplished woman would have been created to honor a female chief or a woman in a royal lineage.
Bastin explains that a Lwena style of carving (related to that of the Chokwe) is distinguished by the "gentleness
of its lines," a tendency toward naturalism, and a taste for round and full forms.
Lwena Pwo masks sometimes incorporate tall, rounded coiffures.
Within a large repertoire of mask character types, Pwo (Pwevo in Zambia)—the "woman" or female ancestor—and Mwana Pwo (Mwana Pwevo in
Zambia; —"the young woman"—actually perform a crucial role in transmitting culturally relevant information,
mainly in the context of the mukanda male initiation. The "woman" and "young woman" masks represent ideal
and comparable models for a "fulfilled" versus a "potential" woman.
In another reference book, "Chokwe and their Bantu Neighbours", I found a very similar mask to mine and it was identified as being Luvale and the
particular mask was identified as a "Makishi Mwana Pwevo" mask.
"LUVALE Makishi Mwana Pwevo."
"This wooden mask portraying a young female is danced at the completion of the initiation ceremonies (mukanda).
It imparts fertility to the spectators. " (see image of the mask below the photos of my mask)
Source: Chokwe and their Bantu Neighbours
For me personally, there is a presence about this mask that I absolutely love. The beaded crown with the buttons, the feather headdress, the wisdom in
the expression in the face, the gentle lines, the wonderful profile...all in all it is an intriguing and wonderful piece to me. It may not be the oldest and
finest example of a Lwena mask out there, but for me it is a real beauty! It comes from a wonderful collection of objects that were from the Zambia and
Angola areas of Africa that were collected before 1960.
Click on any photo on the page to see larger version
This object will be in the exhibition "Collectors Collect - Works from Denver Private Collections" from October 9th 2006 to January 5th, 2007
|Below is a comparison of my mask to a mask that was published in the book "Chokwe and their Bantu Neighbours".
The masks have striking stylistic similarities. The treatment of the eyes, nose, mouth and ears is nearly identical. It is the first mask I have come
across with the same stylistic qualities as my mask.
|From the book - "Chokwe and their Bantu Neighbours"
LUVALE Makishi Mwana Pwevo.
This wooden mask portraying a young female is danced at the completion
of the initiation ceremonies (mukanda). It imparts fertility to the spectators.
Raffia coiffure. From Zambia. Height (with coiffure): 9.75 in. /19.5 cm
|Other examples and information
for reference purposes
|This illustration of an Angolan Pwo performer was published by Portuguese explorer Henrique
Carvalho (1890:245). The mask is similar to examples found among Lwena and Luchazi in Angola
south and east of the town of Mexico in Angola and in areas of western and northwestern Zambia.
|Pwo mask. Lwena, early 20th century. Wood, feathers, fiber, metal, leather, pigment; 31.1cm
(12.3"). Private European collection.
This example conforms to a defined Lwena style that is distinguished by gentle lines, a tendency
toward naturalism, and a taste for round, full forms. In 1997 I showed a photo of this mask to
various Zambian friends (Luvale, Lunda, and Chokwe), who said the mask represented a female
chief. Its elaborate coiffure, feathered headdress, and overall elegance were key to this
Source: Revisiting the Pwo by Manuel Jordan
|Field photo from a 1920's post card featuring a Lwena Pwevo/Pwo performer holding a flywhisk and hand
rattle made from a tin can. The mask dances with the women who clap and sing to musically accompany the
Photo from Baltimore Museum of Art
From the FANTASTIC book "CHOKWE! - Art and Initiation Among Chokwe and Related Peoples"
|About Mwana Pwo/Pwevo masks
One of the most important makishi characters in mukanda initiations represents the ideal woman. She is
either conceived as a "fulfilled" woman, called Pwevo (or, in some Chokwe-related areas, Pwo), or a younger,
"potential" woman called Mwana Pwevo (or, in other areas, Mwana Pwo). In a mukanda-icelated public
performance, women escort the female ancestor Pwevo to the center of the village, where she is received
ceremonially by the head of the village. Pwevo, a female role model, is a beautiful woman who speaks
gracefully and displays gentle manners; she also demonstrates considerable assertiveness by orchestrating
specific songs and instructing the drummers to accompany her dances on cue. Pwevo also directs and
engages the public through hand gestures and with implements that may include a whistle, an adze, or a
Pwevo dances are characterized by short steps and sensuous hip movements, which are emphasized by a
bustle, tied around the hips, consisting of a bundle of cloth, strings, and rattling objects. Pwevo may enact
sexual behaviors by pretending to have intercourse with a mortar or with a figure that she may quickly form
from earth in the performance space. These dances are a type of sexual education, presented openly to
stress the fertility of this female ancestor. Pwevo may also honor women as providers by dancing with a
fishing basket or pretending to pound corn inside a mortar. To highlight her supernatural attributes as an
ancestral spirit, Pwevo sometimes dances on stilts or performs acrobatic skits.
Although Pwevo represents a woman and a female role model, she is created by men and performs in events
related to mukanda male initiation. Women accept this male concept of the ideal female if they feel the
performance honors them, but they may "chase away" a performer whom they feel is not up to their
standards. In fact, the best female dancers in the community often dance alongside Pwevo to test the skills of
An adept Pwevo performer is appreciated and enjoyed by all, and new songs are sometimes created to
celebrate a particularly talented dancer. Women also might give the performer an alternative name, which
women can use strategically to request his reappearance. Although women usually know who is performing a
particular mask, this knowledge is a secret regulated by men and their mukanda camp, because all
performers are seen as spiritual entities. To avoid infringing the rules of mukanda secrecy, women can
request a favored performer by calling out his alternative name.
Through Pwevo, men celebrate the vital social role of the fulfilled woman and the special importance of
mothers for the well-being of the mukanda initiation camp. Mukanda also underscores gender tensions,
however, because it signals the separation of the boys from their mothers. The Pwevo likishi helps mediate
this tension by serving as a neutral emissary between the mothers and the mukanda camp. Whereas other
masks may chase and harass women, Pwevo remains their closest ally in mukanda-related matters.
Towards the end of the mukanda initiation, a male likishi called Chisaluke (also spelled Chisaluki)
accompanies Pwevo on a trip to a chief's village to request permission to conclude the initiation process.
During that visit, it is Pwevo who takes the leading role in presenting gifts to the chief's family and stating that
the initiates in her village have acquired the prerequisite knowledge to enter adult life. Pwevo speaks on
behalf of all women in the community, and particularly for the mothers of the initiates, who are as interested
in the accomplishments of their sons as the men in charge of mukanda. As a couple, Pwevo and Chisaluke
signify the complementarity of the sexes, which should act in consort at the end of initiation, dispelling
gender-related tensions to ensure the success of the initiates in achieving the goals set forth by mukanda
and society in general.
Source: "CHOKWE! - Art and Initiation Among Chokwe and Related Peoples"
|"Chokwe and their Bantu Neighbours", a book put out by
Galerie Walu in Switzerland is one of their wonderfully illustrated
|"CHOKWE! - Art and Initiation Among Chokwe and Related
a FANTASTIC reference book!
|The article below is a fantastic reference on the Mwana Pwo masks...
Click below to go to the article
|REVISITING THE PWO
by Manuel Jordan
|Photo below taken at the exhibition "Collectors Collect: Works from Denver Private Collections"