Art and Initiation in Western Zambia

by Manuel Jordán
Musical Instrument Museum (formerly Birmingham Museum of Art)

Mother brings newborn baby to the village, Lunda peoples, Chitofu Village, Zambia, 1992. Photo by Manuel Jordán.

Chokwe, Lwena, and Lunda create masks and carved figurative representations of women to honor their beauty and role as providers of continuity in life. Female initiation prepares young women physically and spiritually for their duties as adults and mothers. The birth of a child marks the fulfillment of a woman's potential and is considered an occasion for celebration.

Here, a Lunda woman (sitting on chair) presents her newborn child to her grandfather and relatives. The baby's aunt holds the child after giving a token gift of money to the mother. The mother, her sister, and the grandfather have white clay on their faces. White is associated with ancestry, purity, and positive transitions in Lunda cosmology.