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    Ovimbundu Carved Wooden Privilege or Ritual Staff

    Ovimbundu People, Angola
    19th century

    length: 91cm, weight: 855g

    Available - Enquire


    private collection, UK.

    – scroll down to see further images –

    This sizeable staff of carved hardwood comprises a tapering shaft topped with a standing, grimacing humanoid figure. The figure stands with legs apart, his hands rest on his sides, and it has a high forehead with a braided hairstyle. Teeth are bared and the eyes are almond-shaped.

    The figure has been embellished with brass tacks including two which are placed to suggest nipples.

    The Ovimbundu provided a coastal link in what is now Angola between Portuguese traders and the interior.  The wealth generated by this trade partly was used to commission artworks that expressed the political and ritual powers of Ovimbundu chiefs (Klopper et al, 2017, p. 153). Figurative staffs such as this example were regarded as sacred objects and were housed with other related items in a special hut in the royal household. Possibly such a staff represented an ancestor and so was associated with the powers of the chiefs such as their control over prosperity, fertility and the general well-being of the community.

    A very similar example most probably by the same carver is illustrated in (Klopper et al, 2017, p. 153).

    The staff has a fine, honeyed patina, and is without chips or repairs.


    Bacquart, J. B., The Tribal Arts of Africa, Thames & Hudson, 1998.

    Klopper, S., A, Nettleton & T. Pethica, The Art of Southern Africa: The Terence Pethica Collection, 5 Continents, 2007.

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