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 makunda ritual mask found among the Yaka and Suku is the mbawa (also called m-bawa). Representing the fearsome pakasa (m-pakasa) buffalo, mbawa masks are used on the day of initiate circumcisions, during initiate departures from the camp and sometimes during the breaking of food restrictions (among the southern most Yaka, the masks are called kambwamba / m-bawu and are used during the installation of a new chief). They are also used to scare away witches and thieves and are believed to have the ability to ward off heavy or persistent rain.

Distinguishing Features

  • Height > 150cm
  • Diameter > 50cm
  • Constructed of vines bound into an oval or near-spherical structure
  • Structure covered with a layer of raffia cloth
  • Two horn attached to top of mask (made of wood or real animal / buffalo horns)
  • Horns painted with white spots
  • Raised border stretched horizontally across forehead
  • Eyes are drilled as holes in mask
  • Raised border divides face vertically (serves as nose; sometimes replaced by wooden nose)
  • Raffia cloth surface covered with resin that dries black
  • Surface painted in outlines of white, red, black

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