Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

Welcome to the Spencer Collection

ngunja (carved chair)
  • unknown Chokwe maker
  • ngunja (carved chair), late 1800s–1914
  • Where object was made: Angola
  • wood, skin, carving
  • Object Height/Width/Depth: 78 x 39 x 48 cm
    Object Height/Width/Depth: 30 11/16 x 15 3/8 x 18 7/8 in
  • Gift of Claude D. Brown
  • Not on display
  • 2007.1810
Label Text

The chair has a carved back, legs, and stretchers. The skin seat has been stretched and laced together on the underside.

There is a small monkey on top of the facing left chair post. The standing figure in the top center back, possibly Cihongo, has an elaborate hairstyle with a bun on either side of his head and wears a very wide skirt-like garment. Her left hand rests on her low abdomen and her right hand rests under her left breast. The panels on either side of the figure are decorated with linear designs creating diamond patterns. There are three standing figures on the back of the panels.

The crosspiece under the woman is decorated with four human figures, each straddling the bar. The figure on the facing right is a woman with a short hairstyle. She appears to be smoking a gourd pipe. The other three figures also appear to be female. The outer figures have their hands on the center figure of the group and the center figure has her hands on the facing right figure in the group. They each have different hairstyles.

The front rail of the chair depicts a large ngungu bird with its beak in a trap and a human pointing a rifle at the bird.

The center rail, from front to back, depicts five people. The front figure is working a large mortar and pestle. The figure behind rests its hands on its own lower abdomen. The remaining three figures rest their left hands on the abdomen or chest and the right hand on the right shoulder of the figure before.

The back rail depicts four figures oriented to the chair's facing left. The front figure holds a staff in the right hand, the remaining figures have both hands resting on the shoulders of the figure before.

The facing left rail depicts three figures in a boat, the rearmost with an oar or pole.

The facing right rail depicts three female figures, two facing each other working the same mortar and pestle. The rear figure is working with a cassava sifter.

The chair legs are each carved in the shape of a human, each with its hands on the abdomen, except the front facing right, with the left hand over the chest. The figures on the facing right have scars on the torso. The rear figure has breasts and the front figure may have breasts. The figures on the facing left do not have scars on the torso and buttocks but they do have indications of a beard on each.