'Chaplande' mask

Chaplande mask

Height: 53.000 cm
Width: 22.000 cm

AOA 1993.Af9.38

Some masks made by the Chewa people since Independence in 1964 represent famous foreigners, including film stars and singers, such as Elvis. This mask was made by an elderly man who remembered seeing Charlie Chaplin films when he was at primary school. In his own words, he made the mask 'to resemble a very funny man with a long face'. The Chewa dancer who wore this mask was dressed in a long black coat and a white shirt.

Foreign characters were only included in Chewa masked performances from the eighteenth century. Initially, these 'foreigner' masks represented Africans outside Chewa society, such as the Ngoni warriors from South Africa who invaded Chewa territory and disrupted trade routes in the nineteenth century. Later on, masks depicting Europeans became popular. These masks could not be classified as the 'spirits of the dead' but instead were viewed as belonging to the 'bush' , the area outside the village.