Wooden ‘Katoyo’ Mask with Applied Teeth of a European
Chokwe People, Angola/Congo
height: 17cm, width: 12cm
This fine mask is from the Chokwe (or Tchokwe) people of Angola and the ‘Democratic’ Republic of the Congo. It is of carved wood with applied teeth – probably human. It features a long, European-like angular face; a sharp, aquiline nose; rectangular, pierced eyes; an open mouth; scarification marks on its cheeks; a typical Chokwe cross-like mark on the forehead; small, squarish ears; and a rounded, protruding forehead.
‘Katoyo’ masks are deigned to represent a foreigners, most particularly Europeans and most probably colonial Portuguese. Such masks evolved in the early twentieth century and were worn by performers who would ridicule Europeans for what was seen as their awkward behaviour. Such performances were for entertainment and were an early Chokwe response to colonisation.
Some masks have added facial hair such as a moustache. The upper lip on the example here has a roughness suggesting that facial hair might have once been attached.
Wastiau (2006, p. 125) illustrates a
katoyo mask from the Felix Collection with protruding teeth but in this case they are made of metal shards, as opposed to the real teeth in our example.
The mask has a good, deep, and varying patina. The holes around the edges of the mask used to attach additional headcovering over the performer’s head are irregular and show wear. There is minor but stable shrinkage-related cracking.
The mask has a custom-made metal stand with a black finish.
Wastiau, B., Visions of Africa: Chokwe, 5 Continents, 2006.Provenance:
UK antique market; private collection, New York
Inventory no.: 3351