This is a beautiful African Makonde Body Mask from the people of Tanzania. The female body mask was used at initiation rites. It was part of the costume of a "ndimu" mask dancer, called "amwalin-dembo", depicting a pregnant woman. This is one of the the most important rituals is the initiation cycle. For a period of six months both boys and girls are placed into seclusion where they are taught the rules of adult behavior, sex and the rights and obligations of marriage. This special body mask, carved from wood with breasts and swollen stomach and adorned with MaKonde scarification bars which are symbols of tribal pride and beauty. The body mask along with a matching female face mask is worn by a male dancer. He performs a mesmerizing dance that dramatizes the agonies of childbirth. These smaller masks are used today during village celebrations. It was always worn by a male dancer and was supplemented by a face mask. The dance demonstrated the pain of giving birth. Men aren’t allowed to be present at a women’s initiation ritual so while in their masks they represent women. The navel that looks pregnant is part of a dance that the men do at the women’s ritual in order to represent the idea that the women will get married and interact in sexual acts with her husband. The Body mask is usually carved out of soft wood which makes it lighter to wear. This was collected in the field and shows some age, and has a nice patina. An outstanding and unique item to add to your collection.
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