In the 1950s, anthropologists tried with a limited success to question seers and elders for understanding the subtlety of these lost cultures. It appears that the Chokwe society provided a political balance between the vitality of the man and the fertility of the woman. It is often led by a queen and the power transmission is matrilineal.
The legend of the origin of their kingdom was transmitted orally. The power of the women is symbolized by a trilogy: the principal wife of the chief and his mother, plus the founding princess Lueji who brought to the tribe the royal attributes and the bow.
At some point in the history of this group, aristocratic statuettes mark an obvious intent to express the beauty of the face, of the naked body and of the ornaments, with a naturalist attitude that is often lacking in the stylized figures of African tribal art. They are certainly much more a symbol of the power than a reference to some primordial ancestors, but their use has not been identified.
The figures of men are the most frequent. A hunter 49 cm high armed with his stick, ready to jump into action, was sold for € 3.8M including premium by Enchères Rive Gauche in June 2006. A sitting king playing the musical instrument named the sanza was acquired for € 1.45M including premium by the Musée du Quai Branly in a sale organized by Pierre Bergé et Associés in June 2010.
On June 22 in Paris, Sotheby's sells a Chokwe figure of woman 35 cm high, lot 9 estimated € 1.5M. Her role in the female trilogy can not be determined but she embodies the strength with the same attitude as the hunter : back elbows and bent knees. The details are accurate and the chest is powerful. The statuette has kept intact its thick and long hairdressing made in natural hair.
SOLD for € 2.27M including premium