Mask (lipiko) of Makonde Man with Incised Tattoos
Makonde; made in Mozambique
Medium and Support:
Wood and paint
Transfer from Education Department
Location: Not currently on view
Masks like this come from the Makonde culture in Mozambique. Called mapiko (singular lipiko), they are worn by dancers who perform public masquerades in front of large audiences for holidays and important occasions in their villages. The dancers, also called mapiko, wear the masks on the upper half of the head in order to cover the ears, eyes, and nose. They are able to see through the opened mouth.
These elaborate performances are part of a living tradition in which the styles of both mask and dance change continually. The abstracted human features of earlier masks emphasize their ritual and sacred nature. In particular, they refer to the importance of ancestral spirits attending and participating in these public masquerades. Over time, sculptors began to decorate the masks with unique facial tattoos that identify the wearer as coming from a specific region or tribe.
[Forman Gallery, Summer 2015]