Makonde Helmet Mask, Mozambique
height7 3/4in (19.7cm)
Wood, human hair
Private Collection, California
This powerfully carved mask with close-set eyes, flat nose and mouth open to reveal teeth, belongs to the southern Makonde style of bulbous helmet masks with bloated features clearly portraying the brachycephaly and thick lips of the Makonde themselves. In older masks the coiffure consists of inset human hair and scarifications carved on the face. Worn by young boys over the upper half of their head, the wearer actually looking through the set of teeth, they are worn during the dances they perform after completing their circumcision rites of initiation. Boys are initiated at an early age in Mozambique, which may explain the reason why the helmet itself is small.