- Museum number
Human face-shaped mask (simoni) for Nyau masquerade made of wood painted pale pink. Eyebrows made of applied strips of cloth, eyes lined with synthetic fur fabric, moustache made of synthetic fur. Teeth and eyeballs of paper secured to inside of mask. Receding hairline; short animal ? hairs attached through coarsely-woven cotton base cloth. Mask is further lined with sacking, drawstring runs through lower edge of hair-covered cloth. Floral cotton cloths hang from front and back of mask; sewn to applied fabric band on chin and to edge of hair-covered cloth at back. Several bunches of assorted feathers are bound together with cotton and twisted fibre cords and tied onto the top edge of mask.
- Production date
Height: 73 centimetres
Width: 48.50 centimetres
Depth: 23 centimetres
- Curator's comments
For depictions of Nyau masks in Malawi rock art see:
The Simoni mask is representative of the youngest son of the Chief, portraying him as a young man possibly still of school age, who is intelligent and clever, handsome and well-liked. He does not get drunk or quarrel, but who dances very well and very actively, who takes on leadership, and is born into a rich family, the family of the Chief.
Simoni is most closely associated with the Colonial period, as the dance performance is partly derived from Colonial officers, with movements projecting both the authority of the officers and in unsuspecting moments, their ineffectual stance. Simoni enters the dance singly, or in pairs, trios or in groups of five or six. The dances are difficult and well-coordinated. They are popular masks in the dance performance for the aggressive athletic dance steps.
Simoni is interpreted by Nyau members as being very clever and sometimes too clever in an unflattering way, related more to shrewdness. Others interpret Simoni as intelligent and all the things a young man would want to be in Chewa society. In both cases, Simoni represents the young people who are going to school in larger numbers and learning English. These youths are initiated but are more likely to be interested in other pursuits.
Like other Chewa masks, there is an ambiguity in the mask form which is seen as being bright but also shrewdly clever and dangerous as the Colonial officers might have been perceived. Ironically, despite the fine qualities of the youngest son of the Chief, he has no future in the succession of leadership in his own village (de Aguilar, 1996:88)
See Collection File Af,1993.09. Collection made by the vendor during periods of fieldwork in Malawi (1985-6,1988,1990 and 1992). Nyau is a men's semi-secret masked association whose major function is to perform masquerades at funerary ceremonies. Said to be a likeness of Queen Elizabeth II's escort during visit to Malawi in 1979. Carved by Mr.Michemba. Collected in 1992.
"The long black feathers could be from the Widow-bird Euplectes psammocromius and the black and white ones from the southern red-billed hornbill Tockus rufirostris.'' [pers. comm. , May 2015].
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2015-2016 4 Dec-27 Mar, Korea, Seoul Arts Centre, Human Image
- Acquisition date
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number