25. Body Mask (Ndimu)
This fine Makonde body mask (ndimu) has been delicately carved from a medium/light wood. The stomach area of the mask features a series of parallel semi-circular markings, and the surface has been coloured with natural ochre pigments. Referencing traditional body tattooing are lines of arched dot decorations, located above the mask's pointed breasts, which also feature below the breasts in a conical formation.
Female body masks such as these were traditionally involved in Makonde initiation rites. These ‘coming-out’ ceremonies involved male circumcision and doctrination on the secrets of gender, the rules of adult behaviour, sex and the rights and obligations of married life. The accompanying celebrations included feasts, dances and masquerades. The mask was intended to represent a young woman, and would have been worn by a male masked dancer.
T. Phillips (1999) Africa: The Art of a Continent, p. 175
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