Staff of Office

Chokwe peoples, Angola

Wood

Anonymous gift

21.25 x 20.25 x 2 in

Among Chokwe peoples, staffs serve purposes that range from the particular to the extraordinary. Not only do they function as walking sticks and physical supports, but they also serve to legitimise claims to power, settle disputes, and honour lineage’s histories. The Janus female heads on this staff may commemorate particular ancestral spirits related to royal lineages. The figures establish a link with an ancestral past, which legitimises and protects the chief’s claim to political authority. At the same time, the two-way gaze of the paired heads alerts spectators to the vigilant, all-seeing powers of the chief.

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