Helmet masks also known as Mapiko represent ancestral spirits during Makonde male initiation ceremonies. The mask is worn on a dancer's head to hide his identity and to impersonate a deceased person's ancestral spirit, which is called 'Lihoka'. In addition to scarification marks, this portrait-like mask features an incised patch on the crown of the head, which must have earlier had human hair attached to it. Initiated men only are allowed to wear a Mapiko.
Divination plays an important role among the Makonde. Its main role is solving day to day problems. This figure once belonged to a diviner north of the Ruvuma.
The figure is of a 'great' Female ancestor. The Makonde body scarification were and continue to be far more elaborate than those of other indigenous tribes of southern Tanzania and northern Mozambique. It is said that these women with scarification became god-like figures after death. The scarification covers the forehead and the areas above the mouth and across the cheeks. The lizards on the sides of the stomach are believed to enhance fertility in women.
A figure depicting an ancestor holding a staff, indicating that he was of high stature in society. Just like the females Makonde men had the tribal facial scarification. Among men scarification had diverse functions ranging from personal need to display, spiritual beliefs, to signifying initiation into manhood / rite of passage.
The mask carved with a swollen abdomen represents a pregnant woman. Amwalidembo body masks are worn by male masqueraders during initiation dances making movements dramatizing the agonies of child birth.
This kind of sculpture is developed from the famous ujamaa style. This is a Makonde family tree. The ujamaa sculptures are characterized by poles of people, displaying everyday activities. There is always one big figure at the top of the pole, nowadays often female.
Shetani is Swahili for 'little devil'. According to the Makonde, shetani are creatures that neither human nor animal. They occur in five forms: human, mammal, fish, bird and reptile. Shetani are believed to be still around, though most artist never actually saw one (Many claim that their parents and teachers did encounter shetani). The sculptures are often heavily deformed giving it an abstract appearance. A large number of different shetani exist, each with their own purpose and powers (not always evil).
This is a sculpture in the George Lilanga style. He is perhaps the most famous Makonde artist. This particular style is now modeled by his students.