Makonde Art

Black ebony sculpture, in the Ujamaa style of Makonde art
150 x 35 x 30 cm
Date of entry at UNESCO
Country of origin Tanzania Un. Rep.
Donating country Tanzania Un. Rep.
Donation made to UNESCO by the United Republic of Tanzania
© Photo: UNESCO/P. Lagès
All rights reserved

Makonde culture currently extends along the Rovuma River, on the border between Tanzania and Mozambique. The Makonde people are today internationally renowned for their sculpture, thanks to the extremely contemporary style they have developed by moving away from traditional forms of sculpture yet keeping the cultural aspects of Central-African traditions in their themes.

The sculpture in UNESCO’s collection is representative of the Ujamaa style. Also known as Dimongo, Ujamaa designates all family duties that are shared and performed in common. This type of sculpture is characterized by the representation of intertwined human figures performing chores, presented in a tall, round shape. This composition is often organized around a central patriarchal figure; in some cases the center is hollowed out, and the silhouettes intertwine around a hollow centre instead of a figure. These sculptures can also evoke more dramatic themes or allegories of social situations.

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