makonde 'njorowe' body mask
material: wood, hair
size: 26" (66 cm)
provenace: scaasi collection
note: stand not included
Among the makonde of Southern Tanzania, the masking traditions are linked to the initiation ceremonies of adolescent boys and girl, to prepare them for their future roles of husbands and wives. In the performances held at the end of the isolation period, the dancers dance and pantomime relations between the sexes or embody various characters, each topic being represented by a particular mask type.
The above mask, or body plate, known as 'njorowe', with breasts, typical scarifications, bulging belly and pubic hair, represented a young pregnant woman (amwali ndembo). It was part of a costume for a male dancer whose face was concealed behind a female mask. In his performance together with a male masked figure, he would move slufggishly, mime sexual intercourse with his partner, and then demonstrated the burdens of pregnancy and giving birth.
Notes on the Scaasi Collection: The bulk of the collection was put together in the 1970's from galleries in the New York area while the collector was living in Greenwich Village. His collecting continued over the years though with a piece added here and there through till the mid to late 1990’s. No documentation exists, the information is from family members.