By Allen F. Roberts
University of California, Los Angeles (formerly University of Iowa)

Chokwe artist, Zambia, boy’s initiation. Photo by Manuel Jordán.

As the liminal phase of initiation proceeds, boys are taken “backstage” of their own culture, where they learn the nature of dramatic artifice. This is not to say that the theater of change is a sham; instead, boys are taught how to effect sacred transformations to preserve that most basic of dialectic truths: men are men only in opposition to women. Toward the end of the liminal period, boys participate in preparations for their triumphal “rebirth” as initiated young men. This includes memorizing the songs and dances of masquerade and helping to make the masks and costumes that will be performed.