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A MASK THAT DRAMATISED THE AGONIES OF CHILDBIRTH

Posted by on 14th May 2016

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Among the Makonde peoples of south-eastern Tanzania initiation is one of the most important ritual cycles. Both boys and girls must undergo a period of seclusion, generally a couple of months, during which they learn songs and dances and are taught various practical activities. The initiation rites involve male indoctrination into the secrets of gender. Everyone is taught the rules of adult behavior, about sex and about the rights and obligations of married life. The celebrations involve dancing, feasting and the masquerades of the midimu (sing indimu) spirit maskers.

The female body mask was part of the costume of a special indimu masker called amuwalindembo that was intended to represent a young pregnant woman. It was usually carved with a swollen abdomen decorated with the typical Makonde scarifications and was always worn by a male masquerader together with a matching female face mask.

The amwalindembo performed a sedate dance, usually accompanied by a male indimu masker, which dramatized the AGONIES OF CHILDBIRTH.

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