Manuel Jordán, Ph.D.


Coral Gables, Florida

(by appointment only)


to inquire about Central African art objects available e-mail:

[email protected]

(please include full name and contact information)



sister ethnographic arts site:

















site last modified: 05/24/2009





























About this site: 

ART CENTRAL AFRICA is a commercial gallery of fine Central African art, specializing in ritual and ceremonial objects from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, and Zambia. Ethnographic art objects from the adjacent countries of the Republic of the Congo, Botswana, Namibia, and Tanzania may also be featured at times. Diverse ethnic or cultural groups represented here (depending on availability) include the Kongo, Vili, Yombe, Sundi, Woyo, Teke, Beembe, Chokwe, Lwena or Luvale, Lunda, Luchazi, Mbunda, Ovimbundu, Holo, Songo, Yaka, Suku, Songye, Kuba, Boa, Mangbetu, Zande Kongo, Luba, Pende, Teke, Yaka, Suku, Tabwa, Rungu, Bwile, Lega, Kuba, Bisa, Bemba, Tonga, Mbukushu and Herero. Objects offered on this site (or through our gallery) include ancestral art forms such as reliquaries, masks, and figurative sculpture as well as headdresses, stools, combs, dolls, ceramics and textiles.  The objects included on the ART page represent a selection from our broader holdings of Central African art.  Please e-mail to inquire about other objects we may have in our gallery.  The archival materials featured in this site are offered as reference and as an information resource.  Please contact [email protected] if you have any questions.



Excerpts from articles:






Manuel Jordán



African Arts, Vol. 33, No. 4. (Winter, 2000), pp. 16-25; 92-93.



(on Chokwe-related Pwo masks)



Basket Divination Symbols of the CHOKWE

Manuel Jordán



TRIBAL: the Magazine of Tribal Arts, Vol. VIII-I, No. 30.

(Spring, 2003), pp. 96-106.


(on Chokwe divination baskets)



A generalization that may have some validity supports two major (northern and southern) stylistic zones. One lies north and northeast of Muzamba, the Chokwe "country of origin" in north­eastern Angola (Bastin 1982:246), where Chokwe and their Minungu, Songo, and Shinji neighbors continue to create versions of Pwo that depart from a Chokwe stylistic canon (Felix 1997:105-11). The second is south and east/southeast of Moxico (in central-eastern Angola), where the Lwena/Luvale and Luchazi probably sowed their own stylistic seeds that may have developed separately or in combination with the often distinct and subtle southern styles of the southern Lunda, Mbunda, Mbwela, and Ngangela (Fig. 10; Felix and Jordan 1998; Kubik 1993:25, 98-99).  Within these predominant northern and southern styles, specific group attributions are often possible, but without concrete field documentation such an exercise would remain highly speculative.
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Considerable ethnic integration (marriages, alliances, clans, shared territories, shared initiation camps) occurs in all these neighboring areas, and commissioning masks from one carver in one or another style is not uncommon (Felix and Jordan 1998). In the case of the Dundo museum collection, it is also significant that the Pwo masks were available to performers who wore them in dances held in the context of a Dundo "cultural village," where Portuguese and other European visitors constituted the main audience (see Areia 1995; Porto 1999). Most important, a number of carvers in museum-sponsored "crafts" workshops created wooden sculptures, including various versions of Pwo masks, "inspired" by pieces in the Dundo collection that had been collected in widely dispersed regions of Angola (Areia 1995:174-75).21 In that context, the institution became a new source for the imitation of stylistic canons, a development that must have affected the natural flow of ideas; masks created in and around the town may reflect styles more common in other areas of Angola. In many ways the Museu do Dundo was a supermarket of regional art forms divorced from most of their original cultural framework.





Symbolically, a divination basket is considered a microcosm of life and it may be further empowered by means of applied or attached substances and materials (earths, animal pelts, supernatural medicines, etc.), meant to enhance the diviner's abilities to "see" the hidden truth/s of cases brought to him.  Similarly, a diviner may place implements such as large antelope horns, or carved figurative representations of ancestors (tuponya; singular kaponya), in front of the ngombo to serve as a supernatural "screens of truth" between the diviner and the clients.(FIG. 6) Whether these additional implements are used or not, it is the meaning read and interpreted by the diviner by means of the configuration/association of tupele symbols within the basket that constitutes enlightenment over matters previously disguised for the diviner and client in one form or another.
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Ascribing meaning to a kapele outside the context of a specific divination case is problematic, since tupele are semantically flexible, their significance varying according to the symbols that have come to rest next to them, to their physical orientation at the basket’s rim, and to the particularities of the matter in hand. However, certain general associations do seem to exist and some diviners are willing to provide interpretations regarding the symbolism of divination baskets and tupele materials and artifacts.  Anthropomorphic figurines, for instance, are generally explained as representing a man, a woman, and a child.(FIG. 6) A kapele combining three such figures represents a family unit. Other figures may indicate a victim of wrongdoing, someone who has suffered a violent death, a “crying hypocrite,” a venerable ancestor, and so forth. Manufactured and imported items, such as coins, pieces of pottery, and shells, may relate to theft, to a person’s unwillingness to share wealth, or even to a form of “infection” acquired from contact with, or proximity to, foreign people or things. Parts of animals complement other symbols in identifying problems related to hunting, represent creatures of witchcraft, or embody a warning, like the howl of a dog. Several items, including a rooster’s claw, a metal ring, miniature masks, and bellows, may indicate that a problem derives from ancestral affliction. 


full article


external link:  UCLA African Studies

African Arts back issues



full article


external link:  TRIBAL Magazine