Skip Navigation

Snuff Mortar (Tesa Ya Ma Kanya)

Arts of Africa

The figure forming the stopper of this snuff container can be identified as a chief by the elaborate headdress, or mutwe wa kaynda, he wears, as well as by the way he holds his hands in front of his chest. For the Chokwe, sitting with crossed legs suggests that a person has something to hide; thus, the chief sits in an “open” stance.
  • Possible Place Made: Muzamba region, Angola
  • DATES early 19th century
    DIMENSIONS 9 x 2 3/4 x 2 1/2 in. (22.9 x 7 x 6.4 cm) a: 6 1/4 in. (15.9 cm) b: 3 1/2 in. (8.9 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
    ACCESSION NUMBER 73.107.1a-b
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Marcia and John Friede
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION A wooden container in two parts for tobacco. (.1a-top): A figure of a chieftain wearing an elaborate form of the chihongo headdress. The figure is in a seated position with heels of feet touching. The arms are held in front of torso. The head is on a slant with typical Chokwe features--almond shaped eyes which are outlined and an almond shaped mouth. The back of the headdress extends down to the middle of the back and its end tapers to a point. The figure is highly patinated. (.1b-lower part): The top of the container is fluted around its edge. The center is incised in three areas with concentric bands. CONDITION: The end of the top part which fits into the bottom container is covered with masking tape over which has been placed scotch tape. There is a check where the heels join. The right forearm has been broken off and rejoined. There are two small pin-like openings on each front end of the headdress. There is a check on the back of the right arm from elbow to midpoint of lower part of arm. Small circular piece of wood has been inserted between index and third fingers on right hand.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Chokwe. Snuff Mortar (Tesa Ya Ma Kanya), early 19th century. Wood, 9 x 2 3/4 x 2 1/2 in. (22.9 x 7 x 6.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Marcia and John Friede, 73.107.1a-b. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 73.107.1a-b_PS2.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 73.107.1a-b_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2007
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
    You may download and use Brooklyn Museum images of this three-dimensional work in accordance with a Creative Commons license. Fair use, as understood under the United States Copyright Act, may also apply. Please include caption information from this page and credit the Brooklyn Museum. If you need a high resolution file, please fill out our online application form (charges apply). For further information about copyright, we recommend resources at the United States Library of Congress, Cornell University, Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums, and Copyright Watch. For more information about the Museum's rights project, including how rights types are assigned, please see our blog posts on copyright. If you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, please contact
    Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome any additional information you might have.