The Yaka and Suku initiate young males into manhood through a ritual called makunda (also spelled n-khanda, m-khanda, longwa, or nzo longo). Male Suku children are initiated into manhood by being taken to a bush camp outside the main village, where they undergo circumcision, are hazed, are given new names, are taught the skills necessary to become a man (hunting, sex), and are instructed in ritual dances and performances. Only the teachers are allowed to wear the ritual masks during makunda ceremonies, but the initiates wear special dance masks during performances.The Suku and some parts of the Yaka ethnic group use a mask called a hemba helmet for their initiation dances. During the makunda closing ceremony, when the boys are reintroduced to the community as men, they wear hemba masks, which are thought to be physical representations of ancestors and past matrilineage chiefs (leemba). The new adults are honored and the villagers are entertained by dancing with a pair of hemba masks. According to some accounts, the quality of contemporary hemba masks is improved by mixing in the ashes of masks used in previous makunda climaxes.Besides their role in makunda ceremonies, hemba masks have other ritual uses, including in hunting, punishment, and healing. The Suku believe that those who disrespect others or intend harm to others will be punished if they dance the hemba mask.
Size: 20 x 38 cm