The Makonde people live in what is now southeast Tanzania and northern Mozambique. The most important carving used in the initiation ceremonies of the Makonde was the lipiko or mapiko mask, the latter term also used for the dances in which the masks are worn and the dancers themselves. The mapiko mask sometimes represented ancestral spirits, sometimes animals. Two major styles existed: rather abstract face masks (collected in large numbers by German colonials in what is now Tanzania) and more naturalistic helmet masks, like this one, produced by the Makonde living in Mozambique. The lip plug (pelele) is often an indication of a female mask while a mask with a beard is representative of a male. Pigments also can be an indication of gender with red and yellow typically representing females and brown and black representing males. Scarification is also often present and can differentiate among groups that may be competing against one another in a mapiko. Human hair can be applied (typically with beeswax) and styled to represent certain groups. Mapiko masks were worn over the top of the head, tilted back so the wearer could look out through the mouth. Traditionally, the mapiko dances were performed by adult spiritual leaders to celebrate the initiation of young boys and girls into adulthood and the start of instruction in its skills, in traditional songs, dances, costumes, and cultural knowledge. They were also used to honor the recently deceased. Women perform their initiations only once a year away from the village
males never see their masks. The male’s mapiko is performed publicly to celebrate both male and female initiation. The masquerader’s human status is no longer recognized as he participates in the foundational myth that allows him to fully embody the spirit and character of the mask. This spirit is so powerful that men can hardly control it and the women cannot go near it.
This exceptionally realistic mask is from the late 19/early 20th century. 9.5" Tall.
Bortolot, Alexander Ives. Revolutions: A Century of Makonde Masquerade in Mozambique. Columbia University, 2007 Dias, Jorge. Portuguese Contribution to Cultural Anthropology. Witwatersrand University Press, 1961, pp. 31, 46, 57-60 Dias, Jorge and Dias, Margot. Os Macondes de Mocombique [Makonde of Mozambique]. Lisbon: Centro de Estudios de Antrolopologia Cultural, vol. 1 and 2, 1964, and Vol 3, 1970, pp. 159-217 Makonde 3, Masks, African Art Collection, Pacific Lutheran University https://www.plu.edu/africanartcollection/masks/makonde-mask-3/learn-more-makonde-mask-3/
Crack running from left lip to base. Overall wear consistent with age.