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Chibinda Ilunga, mid-19th century


This imposing figure represents the hero Chibinda Ilunga, royal ancestor of the Chokwe people. According to legend, Ilunga, the son of a great Luba chief, wooed Lweji, a Lunda chieftainess. He introduced into that tribe the concept of divine kingship and also taught the Lunda the art of hunting. From their union, if rather indirectly, came the Mwata Yamvo rulers of the Lunda, to whom the Chokwe not only paid tribute, but also regularly furnished sculptors who produced many kinds of court art almost up to the present day. By association, Chibinda Ilunga became a culture hero and model for Chokwe chiefs as well.

The figure of Chibinda Ilunga came to represent the archetypal chief who maintains the well-being of his people, and he also served as a role model for men in Chokwe society. This figure wears elaborate headgear with rolled side elements as a sign of his royal rank. He holds a staff in his right hand and a carved antelope horn in his left. Since the hunter chief was the most sacred subject portrayed by the Chokwe, such figures were attempted only by the most skilled artists. This sculpture conveys the physical strength and stealth of the hunter’s body as well as the sensitivity and intelligence of a great leader’s face.

Adult: Chibinda Ilunga

Audio file
Kimbell Art Museum, Acoustiguide Inc.

Children's: Chininda Ilunga

Audio file
Kimbell Art Museum, Acoustiguide Inc.


Fred Abecassis, probably Angola, before 1900;

private collection from 1940;

(sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, Ltd., London, 13 June 1978, no. 254);

(Walter Randel, New York);

purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 1978.

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