Among the Makonde in southern Tanzania, masquerading is linked with the initiation of adolescent boys and girls, to prepare them for their future role as husbands and wives. In the masquerades held at the end of the isolation period, the actors dance and pantomime relations between the sexes or embody various characters, each topic being represented by a particular mask type. In earlier periods, a body plate (njorowe) with breasts, protruding navel and a bulging belly represented a young, pregnant woman. It was part of the costume of a male dancer whose face was concealed behind a female mask. In his performance together with a male mask figure, he moved sluggishly mimed sexual intercourse with his partner, and demonstrated the burdens of pregnancy and giving birth. These evocative performances can still be observed among the Makonde today. The meaning of the scarification representing a lizard is not clear.
Provenance: Raskin Collection