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Inhabiting the southeast of Tanzania and the northeast of Mozambique are about 500,000 Makonde, divided into matrilineal clans, each one comprising several villages. Clan members meet only for the ancestral cult and to celebrate initiations. 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 this intensive months-long ritual, girls and boys were provided with knowledge and skills essential to the Makonde way of life. The Makonde practice of carving protective ancestor figures predates the colonial era.
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