- Museum number
Face-shaped mask (simoni) for Nyau masquerade made of wood painted pink. Eyebrows, temples and around eyes made of synthetic fur fabric. Circular ears set low on face. Eyeballs of paper applied to inside of mask. Back of mask covered with sisal stained black, lined with synthetic black cloth. Multi-coloured nylon cloths attached to lower edge of lining material at back and to bottom edge of mask at front. Strips of patterned cotton cloth interspersed at back of mask. White-painted metal coathanger protrudes through sisal backing, rest of hanger is bent inside mask.
- Production date
Height: 71 centimetres
Width: 33 centimetres
Depth: 18.50 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 a period of fieldwork in Malawi. Collected in 1988. 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