Chokwe Axe

snk-1212-75_axe_v_  snk-1212-75_axe_34p_  snk-1212-75_axe_f_

SNK 1212-71

Chokwe War Axe Club, Zambia/Zaïre

L: 49 cm (19,3″), W: 24 cm (9,4″)

Dark brown, hard wood and engraved steel ax blade

This is a good example of an African 19th Century Chokwe War Axe Club. With hardwood shaft and head and incised iron axe blade and supplementary blade to reverse of head. It might possibly derive from the men around Prince Mwene Mbandu Kapova I of Mbunda who played a significant role in the battle between the Chokwe and the Mbunda.
Chokwe axes are deeply rooted in symbolism, status and power. They are held as an insignia and command respect. Some were ‘court art’ object owned by chiefs – headman and nobles. Others were used for fighting or hunting.

The Chokwe were once one of the twelve clans of the great Lunda Empire of 17th- and 18th-century Angola. They eventually became independent when they refused to continue paying tribute to the Lunda emperor. Their successful trading and abundant resources caused them to be one of the wealthiest groups in Angola. By 1900 the Chokwe had dismantled the Lunda kingdom altogether, using guns they had received in trade from the Ovimbundu.

The Portuguese had virtually no contact with the Chokwe until the 1930s when the Chokwe traded wax, rubber and ivory. The Portuguese then quickly brought an end to the dominance of the Chokwe people in the region.

Provenance: Private Danish collection. It was either acquired directly from Lau (Laurence) Sunde’s collection in Copenhagen, which dates back to the 1940s, or Lau (Laurence) Sunde was an adviser to the collector.
Sunde had a “Etnografica” boutique in 1948, that became recognized among collectors as the most specialized boutique of its kind at the time. Tribal and oriental artefacts were purchased from private collectors as well as at auctions in Paris, Amsterdam and London, among other places.

Full description of Lau (Laurence) Sunde will be forwarded by request.

Literature: Areia, M. L. Rodrigues de. Chokwe and their Bantu neighbours. Zürich: Jean David & Gerhard Merzeder, 2003.

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