Thursday, February 4, 2016

Makishi, death dances for living people

1. Liathindumuka, the fat man.

2. Manampwebo, the provocative female.

3. Muchawa, the cousin of the circumcised (Victoria Falls 1998).

4. Muchawa, the cousin of the circumcised (Chezya 1998). 

5. Zigimutwe, chief advisor and millet beer taster.

6, 7. Zigimutwe, chief advisor and millet beer taster, perform a drunken dance.

8. Chilea, the  leader of the play.

9. Kalelua the father and Chilea.

10. Chilea and the Samende musicians perform the Chibunda.

11. Kalelua, the father, with the hat of the wind on is head.

12, 13. Kanolo the fisherman, actor of a comic mime performance with Ngadin, the crocodile.

14, 15. Likulukulege: the man with twisted body, trance master.

16, 17. Procession of the Makishi to the village.

18. Mavundu, the fierce master of initiation.

19. Muvundu in Bongo or floating spirit. He dances an intermediate stage of death.

20. Kaluwe, an ambiguous character, variable, mother and at other times the walker.

21. Dance of Kaluwe.

22, 23. Kanyange Nyenge, Chief of the Makishi (Victoria Falls 1998).

Photos by Marie-Noëlle Robert

Makishi (singular, Likishi) are masked characters associated with the coming of age rituals of the Vaka Chiyama Cha Mukwamayi communities of the north-western part of Zambia. The term refers to the masks and costumes that constitute a character being portrayed. The masks are believed to be a manifestation of the spirits of dead ancestors who return to the world of the living. The Makishi Masquerade is connected to the Mukanda, an initiation school held annually for boys between the ages of eight and seventeen. At the beginning of the dry season, young boys leave their homes and live for one to three months in an isolated school. The Mukanda involves the circumcision of the initiates, tests of courage, and lessons on their future role in society as men and husbands. During the Mukanda, Makishi are supposed to return from the world of the dead to protect and assist the boys in their transition from childhood to adulthood. While at Mukanda, the boys are separated from the outside world - the separation marking their symbolic death as children. Therefore, the boys are called Tundanji - people who do not belong to the world of the living, to be reborn as adults at the completion of the Mukanda. The graduation is marked by the performance of the Makishi Masquerade and the whole community is free to attend (Phiri 2008).
Extract from: "Makishi Masquerade and Activities: The Reformulation of Visual and Performance Genres of the Mukanda School of Zambia" by Victoria Phiri Chitungu.