DateMid 20th century
DimensionsWork : 9 x 6 1/2 x 10 1/4 in. (22.86 x 16.51 x 26.04 cm)
Credit LineGift of David Kamansky and Gerald Wheaton
Lipiko masks were traditionally used by the Makonde people of Eastern Africa in ceremonies to initiate young men and women into adult society. A fringe of raffia fibers and cloth strips would have hung from the bottom of the mask to cover the wearer’s upper body. The lines on the face of this male lipiko mask represent the scars and tattoos that are used in Makonde culture to indicate clan affiliations and to convey strength and bravery. The Makonde believe that lipiko masks channel the spirits of their deceased ancestors and forge a connection between the past, present and future. Although the masks are beautiful, they were historically only used in ceremonial contexts and were never displayed as decorative objects.