Makunda (Initiation Mask)


By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


Makunda (also called n-khanda, m-khanda, longwa or nzo longo) is the initiation society used to transition male children into manhood. Yaka boys considered ready for initiation (called tundansi) are taken to a bush camp outside of the main village, circumcised, hazed, given new names, taught what it takes to become a man (hunting, sex) and also taught specific performances and dances associated with society and the community. During the circumcision dance performances (kinkanda), the initiates wear special masks while their teachers alone are permitted to wear the ritual masks of the makunda ceremonies.

One such initiate dance mask, worn by the leading initiate (mbala) and the first to appear during the final 'coming-out' ceremony, is the kambaandzya (also called kambaandzia in some sources and said to represent the tsetse gazelle). Following the completion of initiation rites, the young boys are led out of seclusion and back into the community. Before festivities can begin, the head teacher (kahyuudi or kayudi) commissions a carver (nkalaweeni or mvumbwa) to create a series of masks. The following masks are worn in succession during the final ceremony:

  • Kambaandzya
  • Tsekedi
  • Myondo
  • Ndeemba
  • Kholuka (Mbala)

Once created, kambaandzya masks are worn on the evening of public festivities to welcome the initiates back to the community with a great village feast. Masqueraders perform for the community and receive gifts from bystanders. Following the end of the 'coming-out' ceremony the initiates, together with their masks, tour neighbouring villages.

At the end of all festivities, kambaandzya masks are returned to the sculptor who places them near a termite hill, later burning them thus signalling the completion of the groups initiation.

Distinguishing Features

  • Woven raffia cloth on a wooden armature in form of a cap
  • Stretched raffia cloth covered with black resin
  • Surface painted in red, white, blue and yellow geometric designs
  • Cap bears an oblong, frontal brim
  • Brim mounts upwards
  • Brim divided from top to bottom by parallel painted lines
  • Small oval head at base of brim
  • Mask surrounded by fringe of straw like fibre

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