Initiation

By Christopher D. Roy
University of Iowa

Mozambique and Tanzania; Makonde peoples

Lipiko (mask)

Wood, beeswax, hair

H. 25.4 cm (10”)

The University of Iowa Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.498

The theoretical model developed by the late Victor Turner to describe initiation includes a phase of separation from the child's family and playmates, followed by a liminal state when the child is neither a child nor an adult, but is believed to live in a different world, in a different state, and ending with reintegration as an adult into village society.  Among some peoples the metaphor of being eaten by a monster from the wilderness, to spend time in the belly of the beast and to be reborn or regurgitated as an adult serves as an alternative theoretical model.  Scars may be applied to the abdomen and back of the child that imitate the tooth marks of the monster from the wilderness.  When the new initiate is "reborn" s/he may need to be taught how to eat, dress and even speak just as an infant might be taught.  The Makonde mask seen here bears the elaborate scars that Makonde men and women wore in the 19th century.