TITLE: Makonde Lipiko Mask
TYPE: crest mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Tanzania
ETHNICITY: Makonde
DESCRIPTION: Lipiko Crest Mask of a Colonial
CATALOG ID: AFTZ002
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Mapiko
USE: Adult Initiation; Funeral; Spirit Invocation
AGE: ca. 1960s-1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: natural pigment

The Makonde people inhabit the bordering region of Tanzania and Mozambique. They are a matrilineal society divided into clans governed by a chief and council. The Makonde are known as some of the most expert mask carvers in Africa, with two kinds of masks prevalent in their society.  This mask, known as a lipiko, is a helmet mask used primarily for the mapiko dance held at adult initiation rituals for boys and girls and at funerals. The masquerader channels the spirit of dead ancestors through the mask.  During initiation, boys and girls are both taught how to make the masks and perform them.  Women perform their initiation away from the males, who never see the masquerade.

This mask came from the Tanzania region of Makonde territory and was danced in the 1960s or 1970s.

For more on the Makonde mapiko ceremony, see Paolo Israel, In Step with the Times: Mapiko Masquerades of Mozambique (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press 2014).

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TITLE: Ekoi Ekpo Crest Mask
TYPE: crest mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Nigeria
ETHNICITY: Ekoi
DESCRIPTION: Ekpo Society Ancestor Mask
CATALOG ID: AFNG001
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Ikem Ceremony
FUNCTION: Secret Society; Funeral
AGE: 1990s
MAIN MATERIALS: wood; antelope leather
OTHER MATERIALS: pigment; kaolin clay; wicker

The Ekoi people, also known as the Ejagham, inhabit the extreme southeastern region of Nigeria and parts of Cameroon. They are a hunting and farming people who live in scattered communities. Each community has a Ngbe or Ekpo (Leopard) Society that helps coordinate political and social events.

Most Ekoi masks take the form of a helmet or crest that sits atop the head. Unlike the masks of other African peoples, Ekoi masks are covered in antelope leather. In the distant past, the skin of killed slaves was used, but now antelope leather is common. Ancestor spirit masks such as these are used by the Ekpo Society, are worn at funerals and other secret society rituals. In the rituals, ceremonial plays known as Ikem (“sharing one heart and mind”) are performed to venerate the ancestors.  The mask is fixed to the dancer’s head and adorned with raffia fiber to hide the dancer’s face and body.

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TITLE: Yaqui Pasko’ola Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Sonora
ETHNICITY: Yaqui
DESCRIPTION: Pasko’ola Mask with X Theme
CATALOG ID: LAMX128
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Pasko’ola
FUNCTION: celebration; entertainment; funeral; protection
AGE: ca. 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; string; horse hair

The Yaqui and related Mayo people inhabit the desert in the Mexican state of Sonora and southern Arizona. Their religious beliefs are a syncretic version of traditional animist practices and Jesuitical Catholicism. The pasko’olas (in the Spanish, pascolas) were malignant spirits, or children of the Devil, whom God won in a game. For that reason, their masks frequently have crucifixes and they wear a belt with twelve bells, each representing an apostle. To symbolize their evil origins, the masks have ugly expressions and vermin such as lizards, snakes and scorpions painted on them. In addition, dancers wear cords and butterfly cocoons on their legs, representing snakes and their rattles. They also wear a flower on their head, to symbolize rebirth and spring. They frequently play the role of clowns, provoking laughter in the audience by mimicking animals, reversing gender roles, organizing mock hunts, and making jokes.

Pasko’olas are danced at every major religious festival, as well as at birthdays, weddings, and funeral celebrations. For example, in Vicam, pasko’olas have traditionally danced on Día de San Juan Bautista (June 24). Sometimes a group of pasko’olas will be accompanied by a deer dancer, who dances with a taxidermy deer head as a crest. Generally, only men are pasko’ola dancers, but women have sometimes been allowed to dance with the permission of the male dancers.

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TITLE: Chamba Buffalo Crest
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Nigeria
ETHNICITY: Chamba
DESCRIPTION: Buffalo Crest Mask
CATALOG ID: AFNG007
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Vara Society
FUNCTION: Adult Initiation; Funeral; Secret Society; Spirit Invocation; Status
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: natural pigment

The Chamba inhabit the region south of the Benue River in Nigeria and Cameroon.  They number in the range of 20,000 persons. Their religious beliefs are animistic, with a strong component of ancestor worship. Their masks, danced by the Vara Society at important events such as adult initiations for boys (circumcision ceremonies), important funerals, and the appointment of a chief, usually take the form of a buffalo with a wide open mouth, symbolizing the mythical origin of the Chamba people. They are worn atop the head with a raffia fiber suit covering the face and body. According to legend, the first Chamba originated with a magical buffalo woman who removed her animal skin to bathe in a lake. A young man saw her and hid her animal skin, and they married, producing the first Chamba people. The masks can be female (red colored) or male (black colored).

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TITLE: Asmat Bi Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Indonesia
SUBREGION: Papua Province
ETHNICITY: Melanesian (Asmat)
DESCRIPTION: Bi (Orphan) Mask
CATALOG ID: OCID006
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Feast
FUNCTION: funeral; spirit invocation
AGE: ca. 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wicker
OTHER MATERIALS: rattan; sago leaf fiber; natural pigments

The Asmat people are a Melanesian ethnic group inhabiting the Papua Province of Indonesia, along the southwestern coast. They are thought to number around 70,000 individuals.  The Asmat celebrate a periodic feast, a series of rituals culminating when dead ancestors, personified by performers wearing full-length body masks like this one (Det), return to visit the village.

The rites involve two types of masks. The first is this one, a single conical mask depicting a legendary orphan (Bi), appears to entertain the audience with comical antics. The second type of mask, the Det, portrays the dead ancestor. At the climax of the ceremony, the masked performers representing the dead emerge from the forest and tour the village, where they are offered food and hospitality. They eventually arrive in front of the men’s ceremonial house, where the dead and the living join in a dance, which continues long into the night. The following morning the dead, now properly fed and entertained or frightened by threats of violence, return to the realm of their ancestors (Safan).

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TITLE: Duma Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Gabon
ETHNICITY: Duma
DESCRIPTION: Anthropomorphic face mask
CATALOG ID: AFGA004
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Adult Initiation; Funeral
AGE: 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin clay; natural pigment

The Duma (also called Adouma or Aduma) people of Gabon is a small ethnic group known for being expert boatwrights and merchants. They inhabit the south bank of the upper Ogooué River. They continue to practice their traditional animistic religion, using masks major social events, such as adult initiation rituals and funerals. Duma masks tend to have a flat or slightly rounded shape, with geometrical patterns and two or three colors.

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TITLE: Ticuna Caiman Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Brazil
SUBREGION: Amazonas
ETHNICITY: Ticuna
DESCRIPTION: Caiman Funerary Mask
CATALOG ID: LABR005
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Funeral
AGE: 2009
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: llanchama bark cloth; pigment

The Ticuna people of the Amazon rain forest populate large parts of the Amazonas state of Brazil, as well as parts of Colombia and Peru.  Brazil finally recognized the Ticuna right to control over some of their historic lands in 1990.  Men make and use all Ticuna masks, are used primarily in adult initiation rituals for girls and in funerals.  Funeral masks like this one always represent animals that the deceased would want to hunt in the next life.

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TITLE: Guro Zamble
TYPE: crest mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Côte d’Ivoire
ETHNICITY: Guro
DESCRIPTION: Zamble Mask
CATALOG ID: AFCI018
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Celebration; Entertainment; Funeral
AGE: ca. 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The Guro zamble mask represents a mythical animal resembling a cross between an antelope and crocodile.  It forms part of the trio of sacred masks with the gu and zaouli. In the past, gu was often presented as the wife of zamble, but in modern rituals she is usually represented as the wife of zaouli, which would make her zamble‘s mother. All three masks are cult objects to which sacrifices are periodically made to bring prosperity to the family that owns them and to drive away evil spirits.  In the past, the zamble may have been a “witch-hunter,” but today they are danced for celebrations and as entertainment, and also at funerals and to honor ancestors.  In this latter context, zamble is especially important, because it is the only nature spirit caught and tamed by an ancestor of the Guro people.

For more on Guro masking traditions, see Eberhard Fischer, Guro (Prestel, 2008) or Anne-Marie Bouttiaux, Guro (5 Continents Editions, 2016).

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TITLE: Nuu-Chah-Nulth Killer Whale
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: Canada
SUBREGION: British Columbia
ETHNICITY: Nuu-Chah-Nulth (Nootka)
DESCRIPTION: Wii-iits-stan-uup Kaa-kaa-whii (Killer Whale) Mask
CATALOG ID: NACA001
MAKER: Wilson “Buddy” George (Vancouver Island, 1958- )
CEREMONY: Potlatch
AGE: 2002
MAIN MATERIAL: red cedar wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; string

The Nuu-chah-nulth, formerly known as the Nootka, originally inhabited the western coast of Vancouver Island.  One of their important rituals is the potlatch.  A potlatch is a culturally important ceremony among the coastal indigenous Americans of British Columbia, held on many different occasions.  It could be held to celebrate a family member’s change in social status, such as a marriage, birth, death, or initiation into adulthood.  It could also be held to restore a person’s prestige after a loss in dignity, such as falling out of a canoe or making a hunting error.  The ceremony could last for one day or as long as three weeks, depending on the occasion and the wealth of the giver.

A potlatch typically included three important components: a feast, entertainment, and gift giving to the guests.  The entertainment consisted of singing and masked dancing.  The more lavish the gifts, feast, and entertainment, the greater the prestige gained by the giver.  Because masks and costumes were expensive and time-consuming to make, larger and more elaborate masks raised the prestige of the potlatch giver.  The masks themselves represented totemic animals such as the killer whale, raven, beaver, or shark, or else mythical figures and beasts, such as the KomokwaDzunukwa or Bukwus.

For more on masks of the coastal peoples of western Canada, see Peter MacNair, Robert Joseph & Bruce Grenville, Down from the Shimmering Sky: Masks of the Northwest Coast (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre Ltd., 1998) and Edward Malin, A World of Faces: Masks of the Northwest Coast Indians (Portland: Timber Press, 1978).

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TITLE: Makonde Lipiko Face Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Tanzania
ETHNICITY: Makonde
DESCRIPTION: Lipiko Face Mask
CATALOG ID: AFTZ001
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Mapiko
USE: Adult Initiation; Funeral; Spirit Invocation
AGE: ca. 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: pigment

The Makonde people inhabit the bordering region of Tanzania and Mozambique. They are a matrilineal society divided into clans governed by a chief and council. The Makonde are known as some of the most expert mask carvers in Africa, with two kinds of masks prevalent in their society.  Most Makonde lipiko masks are helmet masks worn with a body mask depicting a pregnant woman. This mask is a rarer face mask, made and used primarily by the Makonde of Tanzania.  Like other lipiko masks, it is used primarily for the mapiko dance held at adult initiation rituals for boys and girls and at funerals. The masquerader channels the spirit of dead ancestors through the mask.  Face masks, unlike helmet masks, are worn by stilt dancers.  During initiation, boys and girls are both taught how to make the masks and perform them.  Women perform their initiation away from the males, who never see the masquerade.

For more on the Makonde mapiko ceremony, see Paolo Israel, In Step with the Times: Mapiko Masquerades of Mozambique (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press 2014)

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