The Chokwe, with an estimated population of 1.3 million people, inhabit areas in Angola, DRC and Zambia. They are known by many names throughout the world, upwards of 30 different variations, all deriving from the name in which they call themselves, Kocokwe. Chokwe government is headed by a king called Mwana Ngana, with male and female societies regulating all aspects of life.
The known history of the Chokwe tribe dates back to the 15th century, when a Lunda queen married a Luba prince by the name of Chibinda Ilunga. Ilunga and his queen were driven south, to present day Angola, after prominent members of the Lunda ruling elite disapproved of the marriage. Once the pair settled, they established several kingdoms, each controlled by a god-king. Ilunga would eventually become a cultural hero and is portrayed in many art forms.
Like most other African tribes, the Chokwe saw first-hand, the affliction of slave trading throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. They, themselves, ultimately took part in the capture, export and use of slaves, often seeking out other ethnic groups to sell for financial gain.
Kalunga is considered by the Chokwe to be the god of creation and supreme power. They worship ancestors along with various spirits and deities. Some of these spirits can belong to a single individual or a whole community. Diviners are consulted to help ward off evil spirits and promote good health. Today, the Chokwe practice a synchronized mix of Christianity and traditional animist beliefs.
Artwork created by the Chokwe ties back in to their religious beliefs. Many sculptures are in image of various ancestors, most prominent being Chibinda Ilunga, shown with bent legs and a formidable stature. Chairs and other utility objects often portray images of the royal lineage and familial predecessors.