- Museum number
Composite conical face mask (kasinja) for Nyau masquerade made of plastic raffia sacking lined with cotton cloth. Exterior of mask covered with neutral-coloured machine-produced knitwear, with thin horizontal stripes in brown, grey, blue and purple. Facial features defined by application of red and blue synthetic cloth. Bundles of assorted feathers are bound into a band of brown stretch towelling material at top of mask. Lower edge of mask is bordered by band of red synthetic material; fringe of white plastic raffia sewn inside mask to bottom of knitwear.
- Production date
Height: 67 centimetres
Width: 51 centimetres
Depth: 10 centimetres
- Curator's comments
For depictions of Nyau masks in Malawi rock art see:
Kasinja (kasinja – to pound as in pound maize into flour) belongs to the “Afflicted” mask family and is the father of the family, alongside the mother Kachipapa. The parents are known to chatter and talk, unlike the Chief’s family which does not speak. They have three young men in their care; Chimtabwa (eldest son), Nyolonyo (youngest son) and Mbiyazodooka (orphan/outcast).
This family of masks is referred to as the “lame” family by senior mask-makers and Nyau leaders. They are the lowest family in Chewa society; very poor, dressed in rags and without dignity. They are afflicted with illness and handicaps, and regarded as foolish people; although Kasinja, the father, is still a respected mask in the range of Chewa masks (de Aguilar,1996:93).
Kasinja may precede the funeral procession to the graveyard and stay with the people there speaking in falsetto tones about the burial. Kasinja is also referred to as Kapoli (kapoli – to stand up from hoeing in the garden), a more generic name for a variety of masks with feathered headdresses, both of which using the high falsetto voice of Nyau dancers, disguising their own voice. Kasinja and Kapoli are most noted for the profusion of feathers, sometimes concealing the whole of the face and head, with a projection of bound feathers rising above the forehead. Kasinja is also masked by cloth or hide, and the costume is made of sewn fertilizer bags and sisal (de Aguilar,1996:94).
See Collection File Af,1993.09. Collected by the vendor during a period of fieldwork in Malawi, in 1992. Nyau is a men's semi-secret masked association whose major function is to perform masquerades at funerary ceremonies.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number