About the Artwork
This ceremonial adze, with its figurative handle and bifurcated, tongue-like iron blade, once dignified the left shoulder of a Pende chief. He wore it as an emblem of high office when traveling. Never intended to carve wood, the adze was instead made to symbolically represent smooth-cutting diplomacy, straight talk, and efficient negotiation. The bird at the top alludes to the chief’s birds-eye view, or oversight, of his domain. In contrast, the calm, masklike face from which the blade emerges is protected by another set of eyes, keeping watch behind him. The seamless design of the handle and blade is most likely the work of a single artist.
Thinking About Art: Presenting Power
After looking closely at this artwork, answer the following questions: