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The Makonde believe in a world of ancestor spirits and in malevolent spirits who make an appearance during the ceremonies that close initiation rites. According to legend, shortly after the Creation, the first man, wandering around outside the bush, sculpted a female figure out of wood, and the statue became a real woman who gave him many children and, after her death, became the venerated ancestress of the Makonde. This accounts for the ancestress cult as well as the profusion of sculpted female figures, kept in huts. During the intensive months-long initiation ritual, girls and boys were provided with knowledge and skills essential to the Makonde way of life. The Makonde carver was first and foremost a farmer, dedicating time to carving only in the off-season or during periods of rest. The Makonde practice of carving protective ancestor figures predates the colonial era.
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