Kikaku (Initiation Wall Panel)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


Nkanda is the initiation society used to transition male children into manhood among the Nkanu. Nkanu boys are taken to a bush camp (kimpasi) outside of the main village (separation), circumcised and taught what it takes to become a man including hunting and sex (transition) and then finally taught specific performances and dances for their return into the community (reintegration).

Just before the final reintegration of circumcised initiates, ritual specialists and sculptors build a kikaku—a three-sided roofed hut—within which sculpted polychrome panels adorn the interior walls. Displayed at the conclusion of nkanda, the carved images on the panels are said to depict metaphoric images of rebirth, sexual maturity, fertility, death and the spirit world, and community values; metaphors which only initiated men understand. The aim of displaying the panels is to remind initiates about the lessons learned during the initiation period.

Distinguishing Features

  • Figures carved in high relief
  • Female, male, and/or animal figures depicted
  • Upper part of faces painted white
  • Lower part of faces often painted in red pigment
  • Facial scarification, clothing, jewellery delineated
  • Figures usually depicted wearing clothing and distinctive hats or headdresses
  • Themes of sexuality and procreation (referring to male fertility and its protection)
  • Background surface covered with geometric patterns (circles, lozenges, triangles, zigzag lines and leaf patterns)
  • Bright polychrome pigments used

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