Chair of a chief

Unknown artist of the Chokwe, Angola / DR Congo
19th century
Collection Leo Frobenius
Inv. Nr. 4783:07


Probably since the 19th century, Chokwe rulers used chairs with backrests as part of their insignia of power and as a manifestation of their spiritual authority. These chairs were inspired by European designs. The chair is decorated with figurative and symbolic carvings. The representation of a Chihongo mask with the expansive hairstyle that is reserved for chiefs makes reference to the Mukanda initiation ritual for boys. The chair is made from one piece of wood, the format does not correspond to European models, but is adapted to the local squatting as a way of sitting: African seats are usually 8 to 30 cm high, while the seat surface of European chairs is at a height of 48 to 50 cm.