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Makonde / Makua Lipiko mask

Makonde / Makua Lipiko mask
Makonde / Makua Lipiko maskMakonde / Makua Lipiko maskMakonde / Makua Lipiko maskMakonde / Makua Lipiko mask
Tribe: Makonde/Makua
Country: Tanzania
Ritual: Lipiko
Name: Unknown
Materials: Wood
Provenance: Coll. Andrew Turley 2010
Comments: his is a simple mask with a complex form. It is very light, thin and the carving is quite deep. It has sweat stains around its inner edges and the surface wear, scrapes, scuffs and stable age crack at the corner of the mouth lead me to date it circa 1960-70.

The Makonde and their neighbours (Yao and Makua) have a masquerade institution called Lipiko. It announces and celebrates the initiation of both boys and girls, blending sacred and secular elements. Although masked beings are highly respected they may also satirize foreigners or other foolish individuals.

Along with human masks the Makua and Makonde also use animal masks during their ritual dances. This type combines both zoomorphic and anthromorphic elements. The face usually shows human characteristics and the animal features are highlighted well known examples are the in the Linden Museum and Leipzig Musuem for Ethnology where lengthened paddle-like ears represent a hare.

This piece has a similar nose and mouth structure to the Ndimu mask in the Linden Museum, Stuttgart. However the Stuttgart mask has a less complicated form without the brow depth, cheek structure and carved ears.

An interesting feature is the small (and it would appear) well used hole at the top of the bridge of the nose.


  1. African Masks of the Barbier Mueller Collection. Prestel Verlag Munich. 1998.
  2. Spirits Speak: A Celebration of African Masks, Stepan & Hahner, Prestel, 2005
  3. A History of Art in Africa, Harry N. Abrams Inc, New York. 2001
  4. The Tribal Arts of Africa, Jean-Baptiste Bacquart, Thames & Hudson, 1998