Chokwe mask lost during Angola’s civil war is recovered and added to IncarNations exhibition

The mask belongs to the Dundo Regional Museum in Angola and went missing during the civil war (1975-2002). The story of the quest to find the stolen mask began two years ago, and has today reached a happy ending: the mask will be returned to the Angolan authorities. Before it is sent back to Angola, it can be seen in the halls of the Centre for Fine Arts as part of the IncarNations exhibition.

IncarNations presents an original blend of classical and contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora in a dynamic setting. The exhibition includes a room on the ongoing recovery project around the Dundo Regional Museum, where a recently rediscovered flyswatter was put on display. The mask will now also be given a place in this room from Tuesday 23 July until the end of the exhibition (6 October).

This is a ‘Chihongo’ mask, from the Chokwe people of Angola. Masks of this type are traditionally associated with the mukanda initiation ceremonies.


Recovery Mission

The Congolese collector, art patron and entrepreneur Sindika Dokolo launched an ambitious recovery mission in 2014. The aim of this project is to track down pieces of art from the collections of the Dundo Regional Museum which disappeared during the Angolan Civil War (1975-2002) and return them to their country of origin.

Through the collective efforts in partnership with collectors, art dealers, auction houses, international researchers and experts, 13 works have already been recovered and returned to the Angolan government since the start of the mission. In this way Dokolo supports the commitment of African institutions to take the management of their heritage into their own hands.

Important sources for the detective work



An image of this mask was first published in 1956 by José Redinha, then director of the Dundo Museum.

The mask is also included in a work of reference from 1961, published by Marie-Louise Bastin, Emeritus Professor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. She did pioneering work in classifying and documenting around 300 important works in the Dundo Regional Museum.

Finally, the archives of the AfricaMuseum in Tervuren are another essential source in tracking down lost pieces, and research into the origins of the items is still done in close collaboration with the AfricaMuseum. The archives include an inventory of the ‘Bureau international de Documentation ethnographique’, with detailed cards giving accurate descriptions of 830 collection pieces from the Dundo Regional Museum.

Incarnations: Africa Art As Philosophy (28.06 – 06.10.2019)



South-African artist/curator Kendell Geers and Congolese art collector Sindika Dokolo selected together 150 works of art from Dokolo’s impressive collection. Their aim is to lead the visitor towards a change in the perspective on ancient and contemporary African art, by focusing on the spirituality that binds them.

IncarNations is at once a mix and exchange between classical and contemporary art from Africa and its diasporas. The masks, images and historic objects act as milestones, anchoring contemporary works in the ancient context of live creation.

The scenography, a vibrant compilation of image, sound and colour, evokes associations with the dynamic bustle of an African metropolis and underpins the vitality of the works on display.

The exhibition includes works by William Kentridge, Tracey Rose, Wangechi Mutu, Otobong Nkanga, Yinka Shonibare CBE, Pascale Marthine Tayou, Ana Mendieta, Kehinde Wiley, Andres Serrano, Aida Muluneh, Mwangi Hutter, Hank Willis Thomas, Adrian Piper, Lubaina Himid, Roger Ballen, Zanele Muholi, Phyllis Galembo.

Practical Information

BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts, Rue Ravensteinstraat 23, 1000 Brussels
Open: Tuesdays to Sundays, 10am > 6pm
Closed: Mondays

Tickets: € 10