Mask Representing a Male Ancestor (Chihongo)

late 19th–early 20th century

African Art

On view, 1st floor, African Art

Chihongo represents a male spirit and refers to wealth and power. This mask would have only have been worn by a high-ranking member of society or his sons during festivities, especially during the proceedings of the mukanda, or male initiation. Chihongo is a royal character, and the exuberant arched headpiece with feathers that would have originally have been attached to the mask referenced a type worn by high chiefs. The disk-shaped element protruding from the chin recalls the beard worn by chiefs. Symbolizing the male principles of power, social status, accomplishment, and strength, Chihongo complements Mwana Pwo, or Pwewo, the model for female beauty.


Wood, fiber, rattan, and metal


10 13/16 × 6 11/16 × 3 9/16 in. (27.5 × 17 × 9 cm)

Credit Line

Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection

Accession Number



19th–20th century


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.



Unidentified member of the Chokwe society, Angola [see note 1]; acquired in Bie, Angola by Luiz Teixeira (born 1904), Portugal, 1932 [see note 2]; Diogo de Macedo (1889–1959), Lisbon, and by descent; sold to Entwistle and Co. (Lance and Roberta Entwistle, dealers), London, by 1978; sold to Charles B. Benenson (1913–2004), Greenwich, Conn., July 1, 1983; bequeathed to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 2004

Note 1: One of the twelve clans of the Lunda empire in seventeenth and eighteenth century Angola, the Chokwe are an ethnic group of Central and Southern Africa. Historically worn by the chief, his son, nephew, or another high-ranking member of society, Chihongo masks were owned by those authorized to wear them.

Note 2: Mask Representing a Male Ancestor (Chihongo)’s ownership has historically been associated with Portugese journalist Luiz Teixeira. Teixeira traveled through the African subcontinent in the early 1930s including in Angola. Chronicled in his publication, Na Roda do Batuque (1932), Teixeira describes encountering a ceremony south of the Bie province in which a Chihongo mask was used, and was photographed alongside the wearer of the mask. Although Teixiera describes encountering the mask’s wearer later in his journey, the circumstances of the mask’s acquisition are unknown.

  • Frederick John Lamp, Amanda Maples, and Laura M. Smalligan, Accumulating Histories: African Art from the Charles B. Benenson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2012), 116, ill
  • "Acquisitions, July 1, 2005–June 30, 2006," in "Photography at Yale," special issue, Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2006), 222
  • Frederick John Lamp, "Charles Benenson and His Legacy of African Art to Yale," in "Recent Acquisitions 2001–2003," special issue, Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2004), 26, ill
  • Marie-Louise Bastin, La sculpture tshokwe (Meudon, France: Alain et Françoise Chaffin, 1982), 98, fig. 37
  • Robert Bleakley, African Masks (London: Thames and Hudson, 1978), fig. 34
  • Diogo de Macedo and Luiz de Montalvor, Arte Indigena Portuguesa (Lisbon: Editorial Atica, 1934), 681, fig. 38
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

ceremonial masks, ceremonial objects, masks (costume)



Technical metadata and APIs


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