What are the most important values of your traditional culture?
The Chokwe traditional culture is strongly defined by its social organization and hierarchy, which is headed by a superior being, and created and administered by the ancestors. Throughout the year, the ancestors are celebrated in rituals and ceremonies which respond to the different needs of the society. This includes the initiation ceremonies that assist both men and women defining their different social positions, and skills in the passage of life. Women are recognized for their power and different skills, and artists are valued for all their endeavors, including the making of masks and statues, architecture, music, songs and dances, and oral traditions.
How is traditional culture changing?
The traditional culture has been changing relatively slowly because the Chokwe believe themselves to be the first created human beings, and value their culture accordingly. The Chokwe have always borrowed from other communities what they thought to be important for their survival, and the continuation of their culture. They were among the first to adopt grains from the Portuguese, and the first to make guns imitating the European model. They took the European chair design and decorated it in traditional Chokwe style. They are open to change which they find beneficial, but refuse changes imposed upon them – and mock the enforcers of change in their making of new masks.
What can the values of the traditional culture contribute to the future?
The Chokwe traditional culture has survived and evolved despite colonization and its destructive forces. Their particularly strong social structure continues to be effective for the ongoing wellbeing of the community, and in particular offers ways to fight climate change, foster more inclusive politics, promote gender values in letting women lead in several socio-political fields, and contribute to valuing artistic creation – an important role within society.
What are the lost values of the traditional culture that people regret today?
There are few villages that still maintain their traditional culture and its different attributes. The Chokwe started losing their cultural values due to the pressures of colonization, especially under the Belgian authority. Similarly, urban migration contributed to a loss of their basic social organization, mutual assistance, and the important place of rituals.
Which importance do you see in the museum and to whom would you recommend the visit?
Museums today are the places where different memories are preserved – they house some rare pieces that can no longer be found elsewhere. They should be open to Chokwe artists and their leaders for inspiration, and to assist with the understanding of how their pieces were significant in the past. Art historians, philosophers, creative artists, and many other people will find a great deal of inspiration in visiting world museums that house Chokwe pieces of art.