Pensador - the symbol of Angola
Pensador, or "Samanhonga" as the Côkwe ethnic group calls it, is a statue of a seated man with his hands on his head and elbows resting on his knees. There are several legends about him and the statuette was also used as an amulet for divination or to summon the spirits of ancestors.
And it will accompany you across Angola.
A jewel of Angolan culture
At every art market you will find it in different sizes and made of different types of wood. There is not a single merchant who does not have a statue of Pensador on his sales counter. Whether brown, black, small or large, you can't leave Angola without Pensador, who is a thinking man.
Pensador is considered a jewel of Angolan culture and in 1984 the statue became a national symbol. Its oval shape symbolizes the connection of man with the power of nature.
The privilege of old age
The symmetrical shape and face facing downwards show respect for the elderly, who have a privileged position in Angola thanks to their experience and knowledge of the secrets of life, which they have gained precisely because of their age.
The history and stories associated with it come from the eastern part of Angola, which includes the provinces of Lunda Norte, Lunda Sul and Moxico.
From Congo to Angola
The original Pensador-Samanhong carved by a member of the Muakanhika family in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Thanks to the relocation of the Côkwe people to Angola, the statue reached the province of Lunda Norte. Among the immigrant peoples at that time were mainly the Muakanhika, Muandumba, Tetembo or Muatchissengue families Muatembo and Muambuba.
Convention and western style
In 1940, replicas began to be carved in the Dundo Museum's workshop according to the original piece. Thanks to the activities and initiative of Diamango, the then Lunda Diamond Company, a museum of traditional art and archaeological and ethnographic collections was established in Dundo in 1947. Local artisans, hired by the company's staff, mostly Portuguese and Belgians, supported these artisans to carve sculptures out of wood or model clay. They helped the craftsmen to refine the image of Pensador into a form they considered more aesthetic and conventional for the Western world.
Fear of legend
There are several legends around the statue, including the one that was used as an amulet for divination or to summon ancestor spirits. According to tradition, it allegedly served as a link between the world of the living and the world of ancestral spirits, whose task was to protect or harm people day and night.
The story goes that through local people or enemies, Pensador became human at night. In human form, according to the locals, he was a large and valiant warrior who waged his tribe in wars against other ethnic groups. Fearing the power and abilities that the people assigned to the statue, the colonizers forced the traditional Angolan authorities to lock the statue in the museum.
The present of Pensador
Since January 2018, thanks to its cultural values and the economic importance of Angola Samannhong, it has been on display at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at the Art Gallery. It also becomes an artifact that has a world heritage value and, due to its symbolism, is included in the list of cultural heritage and is protected by the UNESCO nations.
Although I am not an Angolan, Pensador in several designs is also part of our home, along with traditional masks or a statue of Palanca negra, which also belongs to the national symbols of Angola.