African textiles, £10.99
Height: 105.000 cm
Width: 30.000 cm
Depth: 23.000 cm
Kasapoli mask of a missionary
Chewa people, Malawi
This mask depicts a missionary who was associated with unpopular changes in social policy in Nkhoma village. The mask is made of wood painted bright red and it has striking facial features. It would have been worn with a full length costume made of composite materials.
The first missionaries settled in Malawi in the 1860s and their presence has been a continuing cause of social change, sometimes provoking animosity and resentment. Masks depicting missionaries may have angry, cheerful or serious expressions, reflecting the varied relationships.
The masks created by the Chewa people are used by members of the men's Nyau association. This secret society is involved in rituals such as funerals and coronation ceremonies for new chiefs. Many of the masks are described as spirits of the dead which are feared and have to be pacified. However from the eighteenth century foreign characters were included, reflecting major historical events including the introduction of Christianity. Each mask is given a name, a dance and a costume.