- Museum number
Dance-mask for Nyau masquerade made of wood stained black, depicting Ngoni warrior; worn with red cloth tied around forehead. Characterised by deep grooves on forehead and from nose to mouth. Large ears, black synthetic fur fabric encircles eye cavities and forms eyebrows. Pieces of card with central cut-outs applied to inside of hollowed-out mask to form eyeballs. Mouth is open and downturned; hair, beard and moustache made from skin with attached long hair. Floral cotton cloths attached to skin, hang below chin at front and back.
- Production date
Height: 70 centimetres
Width: 24 centimetres
Depth: 21.50 centimetres
- Curator's comments
For depictions of Nyau masks in Malawi rock art see:
The Ngoni warring raids lasted from the mid to late nineteenth century, and are credited with causing a reign of terror, destroying village areas (de Aguilar,1996:66)
The Ngoni (who trace their origins to the Nguni and Zulu people of kwaZulu-Natal in South Africa) entered the central region of Malawi through Ntcheu (a district in the central region of Malawi), and either conquered peoples or forced them to flee. Concurrently the slave trade continued and a new threat from the Yao people (a major Bantu ethnic and linguistic group based at the southern end of Lake Malawi), who had adopted Islam, encroached in Chewa villages along the lakeside. Chewa peoples fled from Ntcheu into the savannah highlands and the mountains of Nkhoma were they built houses (de Aguilar,1996:67).
Ngoni warrior masks and the masks of slavers are said to evoke great fear in the people who remember the raids and remember their parents and elders talking about the raids. A dancer wearing the Ngoni mask described to de Aguilar (1996) the fear of the elderly people who remembered stories about living on the mountain during the Ngoni raids. The dancer felt his mask was very powerful to cause these emotions and he felt the most powerful and feared of all the dancers (de Aguilar, 1996:67).
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. Mask recorded by vendor to have been made by Mr. Michemba more than thirty years ago. Said to represent Ngoni warriors who raided central Malawi in mid 1800s. Danced by Josam Wangalola for four years. Collected in 1992.
- Not on display
- Good, slightly abraded.
- Acquisition date
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number