Body Mask, Ndimu

Makonde peoples

Tanzania, Africa

Body Mask, Ndimu, n.d.

  • On View

Wood

Dimensions: 20 × 9 1/2 × 7 1/2 in. (50.8 × 24.1 × 19.1 cm)

Gift of Genevieve and Richard Shaw, by exchange, 2010.283

Body masks are used in Makonde initiation rituals, when young girls and boys are taught the rules and expectations of adulthood in the community. Danced at the end of the initiation cycle, body masks celebrate the return of the young men to the community after months of separation in an initiation camp. After initiation the men can take wives and father children. For this reason the initiation celebration is centered on fertility and family. Actors dance and pantomime the relationship between men and women, each topic presented using a particular mask. Body masks are danced to demonstrate sexual intercourse, the burdens of pregnancy, and the agonies of childbirth.

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