Ritual Messengers

The Peoples of Central Africa

| The Nkanu, Zombo, Yaka, Suku and Mbala | Yaka, Suku and Pindi Circumcision Masks |

Kakuungu mask. Suku. South Bandundu, Zaïre. Wood, fibre, pigments.
© Africa-Museum, Tervuren

  Yaka, Suku and Pindi Circumcision Masks

These masks are worn primarily in the context of the circumcision ritual, an important institution known in this cultural zone as n-khanda, mukanda or nzo longo. Young boys are circumcised and taken to a bush camp, where for several months they are initiated into their future adult status. Yaka masks represent founding ancestors and their main function is to ensure fecundity. Hemba masks, particularly the great kakuungu, are worn by important initiates who haunt the circumcision camp, frightening women and children away. Other masks, such as the ndeemba and tsekedye, may be worn by the newly circumcised during the dances that are held after the camp has been (deliberately) destroyed by fire. These events signify the end of the ritual and the young people's return to village life. Initiates take the curved noses — phallic symbols — from the masks and burn them with the camp ridge-pole; the ashes will be used as a charm during the next n-khanda ritual.

main page previous index next