We’re back in Africa today, and this time we’re in northeastern Angola for a super cool sculpture from the Chokwe people.
This carved wood sculpture is of Chibinda Ilunga, who was a royal ancestor of the Chokwe. He was famed for uniting two tribes. His marriage to a Lunda chieftainess brought together his tribe, the Luba, with hers into an empire which they ruled. As a great hunter, he taught all of people to hunt well.* For more infomation about this story, check out the Met Museum link in the resources section.
This pristine sculpture shows a him with large hands and feet–a symbol of power. The rolled-up sides of the headdress indicate he is royalty. He holds a staff in one hand and an antelope horn in the other which carries magic to help with the hunt. His face is calm, wise, and sensitive. The braided beard is made out of real hair and represents his age and wisdom. The slightly-bent knees show that he may be poised for the hunt.*
I learned all of this information here: https://www.kimbellart.org/collection-object/chibinda-ilunga. On the Kimbell Art Museum’s page for this artwork, you can find two audio recordings both for adults and kids about this art. The one for kids is super cute: the narrator has a conversation with an actor as Chibinda.
Art Discussion Questions
- What can you tell about Chibinda Ilunga based on the features of this sculpture (the headdress, facial features and expressions, stuff he holds, body, etc)?
- How can you tell this is an important person?
- Why do you think the artist chose to make the hands and feet larger?
African Art Learning Activity
For this one, I think writing stories or poems from the perspective of Chibinda Ilunga or from the people that revere him would be a great learning activity for this sculpture.
- Adult and Kids Audio Recordings about this sculpture
- More Information about the Luba and Lunda Empires from the Met Museum
This artwork is at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, TX. I worked there for a year in a fellowship after college, and it is such a beautiful, beautiful place. They have a small collection that focuses on quality rather than quantity, which I love. Instead of 10 mediocre examples of a certain type of art, they’ll have one stellar example. It makes it easy to focus and not get overwhelmed. You can view their collection online at https://www.kimbellart.org/collection.
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