Early 20th Century Makua Female Initiation Mask with a Labret
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- Early 20th Century Makua Female Initiation Mask with a Labret
- Approx. 9" long x 6" wide x 5" deep, 12 1/2" tall with base
- From Tanzania/ Mozambique
- Close to the Makonde People, the Makua People are established on the banks of the Zambezi River. They are present in the Mtwara region of southern Tanzania and northern Mozambique.
- These masks are associated with Male and Female Initiations. The German ethnographer, Karl Weule, reported that the male and female masks were used to celebrate the emergence of young women from Initiation Camps. Jorge and Margot Dias have studied the Makonde over the past thirty years and indicate that masks are worn in Mapiko Dances associated with the Initiation of both men and women. Initiation includes instruction in the skills of adulthood, as well as in Makua and Makonde People's traditional dances, songs, and the costumes and Secrets of the Mapiko masks. The initiates are told that the masks are not the spirits of the dead, but are worn by living men, and after a period of training in dance, they wear the masks in a great festival at the center of the Village. The masks may also appear during an Ngoma Ceremony in which adolescents are taught about marriage and the demands of adult family life (Dias 1961: 31, 46, 57-60; Dias and Dias 1964: 56-81; 1970: 159-217). Many of the female masks include the large lip labrets that Makonde women used to wear.
- According to tradition, a lip plate or labret is evidence of each woman's fertility and proof that she is ready for marriage. It is meant to show that a girl has reached marriageable age and is ready to become a wife. Apart from marriage, the beauty of a woman is also determined by how large her lip plate is.