Rituals of Healing
By Barbara Thompson
Friends of Usambara Society, Tanzania (formerly Stanford University; University of Iowa)
Among the Nuna peoples, an annual renewal celebration is performed to purify the community of negative, antisocial, or dangerous forces. During such renewal rites, masked dancers emerge from the wilderness that surrounds the village and fields. As a warning to the community of these approaching and potentially dangerous spirits, drummers play songs that are unique to each masquerade. These songs identify the unique personality of the spirit embodied by the mask. The performance and movements of the masked dancers interpret the unpredictable nature of these bush spirits, who aggressively approach the onlookers and threaten them with whips and violent behavior characteristic of some wild animals. Here the bush pig mask from the Nuna village of Tierko prances and tosses its head in an affective interpretation of the character of the animal.