Mukanda schools masks create a mysterious setting presenting an image of an ancient ritual of boys passing to manhood. The re-opened African Museum, Belgium, exposes a collection of artifacts from different tribes*, accompanied by explanations of the video hosts to guide a visitor into a universe of schooling by the spirits of masked deceased ancestors Makishi, who revisit the world of living to protect the young boys, and the entire village during the period of Mukanda school session.
The opening of school is a memorable moment of a night festivity, with plenty of food and Katasu beverage to frame the entrance to the first rituals on next morning: Nganga Mukanda or a ‘natural healer‘ will rub a clay into boys bodies to prepare them for a circumcision at Kateteveje ‘death place‘. The drums beat in frenzy to overwhelm the screams of the boys…
Curator and scientist Hein Vanhee devoted to the history of peoples of the Democratic Republic of Congo at Africa Museum, and at the University of Gent Centre for Bantu Studies shares his knowledge of the mask collection (Video above).
Image: above ‘The Rotunda‘ of African Museum, Belgium.
“Tribes” is a term which we do not longer use, because it has colonial connotations and describes inaccurately the peoples about whom the exhibitions are. We prefer to speak of “peoples” in general of when referring to more local contexts we use “communities.” Hein Vanhee.