TITLE: Makonde Lipiko Mask
TYPE: crest mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
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 Mozambique region of Makonde territory and was danced in the 1960s or 1970s. Originally, this mask had hair shavings attached with beeswax to the depressed and darkened part of the forehead, but this feature was lost over time, beeswax not being an especially durable fixative.
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)