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HOME : African & Tribal Art : African Collection/ HK : Makonde Wooden Mask
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Makonde Wooden Mask - PF.4702
Origin: Tanzania/Mozambique
Circa: 19 th Century AD to 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 9.75" (24.8cm) high x 6.5" (16.5cm) wide
Collection: African
Style: Makonde
Medium: Wood

Additional Information: Hong-Kong

Location: Great Britain
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The Makonde believe in a universe that includes human beings, ancestral spirits and malevolent spirits. During important ritual ceremonies, such as initiation, all three make their appearance behind the guise of masks. The dancers, who are the focal point of any ceremony, are adult male initiates wearing masks and completely covered in garments so as not to be recognized. Masks represent ancestral spirits who return to earth in order to express their joy at the successful achievements of the initiation.

The joy from this delightful mask is obvious and very attractive. Its features are quite realistic, (a characteristic of Makonde statuary), and conveys great enthusiasm and pleasure. It's size suggests it was worn by a young male who would have made full use of its power in a dance designed to express a range of emotions related to his passage form childhood to manhood. Every detail is calculated to increase the impression of an exalted state-- the wide open mouth, overhanging brow and squinting eyes all make it seem the mask's ancestral personification is in the throes of wonderful laughter. Traces of greenish-blue paint mingled with the dark grey adds dimension and depth to the overall expression. Through such masks the bond between living beings and ancestral spirits is further strengthened; which is, in itself, life affirming.
- (PF.4702)


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