Definitions

Makonde

Makonde

[muh-kohn-dey]
The Makonde are an ethnic group in southeast Tanzania and northern Mozambique. The Makonde developed their culture on the Mueda Plateau in Mozambique. At present they live throughout Tanzania and Mozambique and have a small presence in Kenya. The Makonde population in Tanzania was estimated in 2001 to be 1,140,000, and the 1997 census in Mozambique put the Makonde population in that country at 233,358, for a total estimate of 1,373,358.

The Makonde successfully resisted predation by African, Arab, and European slavers. They did not fall under colonial power until the 1920s. During the 1960s the revolution which drove the Portuguese out of Mozambique was launched from the Makonde homeland of the Mueda Plateau. At one period this revolutionary movement known as Frelimo derived a part of its financial support from the sale of Makonde carvings. The Makonde are best known for their wood carvings and their observances of puberty rites. They speak Makonde, also known as ChiMakonde, a Central Bantu language closely related to Yao. Many speak other languages such as English in Tanzania, Portuguese in Mozambique, and Swahili and Makua in both countries. The Makonde are traditionally a matrilineal society where children and inheritances belong to women, and husbands move into the village of their wives. Their traditional religion is an animistic form of ancestor worship and still continues, although Makonde of Tanzania are nominally Muslim and those of Mozambique are Catholic or Muslim.

Makonde art

The art of the Makonde must be subdivided into different areas. The Makonde traditionally carve household objects, figures and masks. Since the 1950s years the socalled Modern Makonde Art has been developed. An essential step was the turning to abstract figures, mostly spirits (Shetani) that play a special role. Makonde are also part of the important contemporary artists of Africa today. The most internationally acknowledged such artist was George Lilanga.

The ex libris of ritual Makonde art are the unique Mapiko masks (singular: Lipiko), which have been used in coming-of-age rituals since before contact was made with missionaries in the 19th century. These masks are painstakingly carved from a single block of light wood (usually 'sumaumeira brava') and may represent spirits ('shetani'), ancestors, or living characters (real or idealized). The dancer wears them so that he sees through the mask's mouth and the mask faces straight when he bends forward. Examples of such masks are provided in the second row of pictures below.

Trivia

Chikungunya, the name of a mosquito-borne viral fever, is derived from the Makonde word meaning "that which bends up," after the disease was first identified on the Makonde plateau. The derivation of the term is generally falsely attributed to Swahili.

MUIDINI - In the Makonde (ethnic group) rituals, when a girl becomes a woman, Muidini is the best dancer out of the group of girls undergoing the rituals.

External links

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