Helmet mask (muti wa lipiko)

Makonde peoples
before 1914
more object details

General Description

Masks like this one were worn by men in public masquerades that celebrated the reentry of Makonde males and females into the community after they completed the coming-of-age rituals in their respective "bush" schools. The mask displays the way their faces were decorated with scarification patterns and their teeth were chipped into points. These were painful operations that proved one's manhood or indicated one' s desire to become more attractive.

During the course of the initiation process, boys learned about death and the secret of masking. In a frightful rite, they came in close contact with the mask, which they believed had come from the land of the dead. They discovered it was made of wood and learned how to wear it. The mystery of masking was not revealed to girls because masking was a form of social control.

Excerpt from

Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, Arts of Africa, 2015.