“The Makonde people belong to the Bantu people who originally lived in the south of Lake Nyassa and later migrated to their present location on the Mueda plateau in the northern Mozambique. They survive economically from farming and, occasionally, cattle rearing.
Makonde carvers are prolific producers of masks, statues and decorative objects.
The most famous Makonde masks are eh helmet masks which are used to mark a boy’s initiation into adulthood. These masks, called Lipico, have realistic features and are often inset with hair and decorated with wax facial scarifications.
Facial and body masks are usually associated with the Makonde people living in Tanzania. The former frequently represents a woman’s face with a lip plug, which the latter is carved to appear as a body of a pregnant woman. These masks are also thought to be worn during boys’ initiation ceremonies.
Makonde sculptures measure from 20 to 80 cm in height, are carved as standing ment or women, representing ancestors, and have apotropaic functions.
Makonde artists like to adorn everyday objects with human faces – empty cartridges were sometimes used as medicine or tobacco boxes and had a lid in teh shape of a human head. The Makonde also made pipes, canes, combs, and bark boxes. Contemporary Makonde artists have achieved a reputation for their human-like ebony figures carved with elongated or distorted features.”
Baquart, Jean-Baptiste. The Tribal Arts of Africa. New York: Thames and Hudson Inc. 1998. Print.