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African Art

Mask Representing a Male Ancestor (Chihongo)

late 19th–early 20th century

Wood, fiber, rattan, and metal

10 13/16 × 6 11/16 × 3 9/16 in. (27.5 × 17 × 9 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
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.
Made in Saurimo, Central Africa, Angola
On view
19th–20th century

L. Teixeira, Portugal, collected in Saurimo, Angola,1932; Diogo de Macedo Lisbon; Entwistle and Co. (Lance and Roberta), London, bought it from the heirs of Diogo de Macedo, by 1978–July 1, 1983; Charles B. Benenson Collection, Greenwich, Conn, 1983–2004; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


Diogo de Macedo and Luiz de Montalvor, Arte Indigena Portuguesa (Lisbon: Editorial Atica, 1934), 681, fig. 38.

Robert Bleakley, African Masks (London: Thames and Hudson, 1978), fig. 34.

Marie-Louise Bastin, La sculpture tshokwe (Meudon, France: Alain et Françoise Chaffin, 1982), 98, fig. 37.

Frederick John Lamp, “Charles Benenson and His Legacy of African Art to Yale,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2004): 26, ill.

“Acquisitions, July 1, 2005–June 30, 2006,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2006): 222.

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.

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 such records is ongoing.