A very large and exceptional trumpet in the form of a carved female torso with head. The cylindrical trunk of this imposing trumpet shows two breasts indicating that the sculpture represents a female figure. In addition, the entire trunk is beautifully covered with elaborate geometric motifs. Details on the head helped identify this great piece of art as a Makonde trumpet.
The Makonde are one of the most prolific art-producing cultures in East Africa, and their works are known worldwide. Though often identified with their wildly abstract and sensual "shetani" carvings which are produced for sale, they also have a long tradition of ritual art, which includes a wide variety of helmet masks, male and female ancestor figures, and an almost endless variety of utilitarian objects, such as this figural trumpet . There are also the startling female "belly" masks. Masks play a prominent role in Makonde life, and mark the end of the initiation and circumcision cycles for boys, as they re-enter society as men, ready to marry.
The Makonde are a Bantu-speaking group who moved into northern Mozambique from their original homelands in Tanzania, near Lake Nyasa. There are still pockets of Makonde living in Tanzania today, and the two groups are separated by the Rovuma River. Despite the proximity of the two groups, they consider themselves culturally distinct, though ideas and artistic traditions are shared. Their first contact with Europeans did not occur until 1910 and, even then, European influence was minimal. Their coastal location hints at an involvement with Swahili slave traders in centuries past, although this is not certain. Recently enclaves of Makonde have been found living in and near larger cities in Kenya.
Recommended Reading: See Kahan, A TANZANIAN TRADITION.
Ladislav Holy, MASKS AND FIGURES FROM EASTERN AND SOUTHERN AFRICA, 1967, Artia, Prague
I have examined this piece and agree with the description.
Niangi Batulukisi, PhD.