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, found among the Yaka and Suku, and worn by an experienced initiate is the mweelu (also called mwelo; called mwila by the Suku). Mweelu masks are worn to protect initiates but more importantly to find food for the camp by stealing food from close by villages. At the end of the circumcision rituals the mask is also worn to welcome the initiates back to the community where their strict dietary restrictions are broken and a feast is had on the village square.

Distinguishing Features

  • Mask does not have a face sculpted in wood
  • Head made of braided raffia fibre
  • Large number of feathers attached in different directions to mask
  • Eyes and mouth made from painted calabash and bamboo fragments
  • Nose is large beak of hornbill bird
  • Lower edge of mask fringed with loose fibres
  • Packets of charms hidden within the raffia fringe

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