Apollo Magazine (UK)
MVWALA, STAFE HANDLE
Ivory, Kongo, late 16th /17th C., 13,5 cm
Prov.: F. Moncada, Port., and Dimondstein, USA collections
Staff handle portraying a Kongo ruler, or high ranking official, dressed in mid-16th C. portuguese attire, reinforcing its owner authority status.
Rare figurative ivory handles were used exclusively by religious, political and social elites. Related to leadership, authority and embodying ritual attributes, it was mounted onto a ceremonial staff, a mvwala — power insignia that perpetuated memories from one generation to the next and tool to communicate with subjects or mediate between the living and the dead.