The Lwena peoples are closely related to the Chokwe peoples, who also primarily reside in Angola, and they borrow much of their artistic conventions from Chokwe works. This comb is distinctive as being by a Lwena artist due to its lack of facial scarification (a less common practice among the Lwena peoples), finely cross-hatched coiffure and refined, serene expression. Women play an important role in Lwena society, even rising to the position of chief, thus much of their artistic output is focused on depicting women and female ancestors of prestige and beauty. Combs such as these serve to beautify their wearer; exterior beauty and elegance are often seen as signs of having positive inner character and esteem, putting one closer in line with revered ancestors.
People in this society take pains to maintain special neatness and brilliance in their personal appearance...Purification of the self also elevates the individual beyond sorrow, close to the divine order of things, if only at performance level. Thus a chief confronted with news of death within the lineage indicates [her] status by absence of facial expression...There are certain senior women...who are armed with extraordinary powers to restore coolness.
Robert Farris Thompson, "An Aesthetic of the Cool", African Arts, 1973