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an afro-portuguese high back armchair from zanzibar


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Exotica, Natural History & Works of Art

an afro-portuguese high back armchair from zanzibar

These striking chairs, which were reserved for important visitors, are called 'Kita Cha Enzi' which means 'Chair of Power'

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an afro-portuguese high back armchair from zanzibar

Zanzibar/East Africa

19th Century

Height 125 cm width 74 cm Depth 59 cm (49.25 x 29.25 x 23.25 in)

These hardwood chairs inlaid with ivory and bone were made in workshops on the islands of Zanzibar, Pate and Lamu for the houses of wealthy merchants. Although displayed in pairs or larger sets they were reserved for visiting dignitaries and very important family members.

The armchairs bears a striking resemblance to Mudejar style chairs of the 16th and 17th centuries from Portugal and Spain and some would no doubt have been brought to the East coast by Iberian traders of the time; comparisons have also been made with furniture from the earlier Mamluk period in Egypt so it is likely that Swahili speaking artisans developed this particular style from both these influences.


British Museum

Art Institute of Chicago

Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon, Portugal


Africa: arts and cultures Edited by J. Mack pub. The British Museum Press, 2000

The kiti cha enzi and other Swahili chairs J de V Allen pub. African Arts 3 1989

Os Construtores do Oriente Portugues exhibition Portugal 1998 pub. Porto 1998

Mobiliario Portugues Bernardo Ferrao pub. Porto 1990

Via Orientalis exhibition catalogue Brussels 1991


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