Vampire Makonde Mask Essay

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The Makonde of Tanzania and Mozambique carve helmet masks which they use in rites and rituals. These masks are worn during special ceremonies during which the user embodies the spirit depicted in the mask. The Vampire Makonde Mask, with its inhuman features, is an example of this. It represents a shetani, or evil spirit, who was blamed for disease and misfortune. The Vampire Makonde Mask is a painted helmet mask carved from wood that has a brownish-gray color and it is from a region of Tanzania. There is a light brown spot on top of the helmet mask to show it has some hair. The forehead of the mask is completely empty with no incised lines to represent tribal scarification. The eyes are carved into the mask and have an oblong shape.…show more content…
A shetani is known as a nnandenga in the Makonde language. Shetani is defined as having a distorted bodies and misshapen faces. The vampire mask has inhuman ears and teeth which are two factors that add to a misshapen face. Shetani are also known as devils or malicious spirits that cause harm to the Makonde people. The Makonde have blamed the shetani for some major illnesses that have afflicted the people. One such malady is degedege, which is known as the early cases of malaria in modern medicine. The Makonde blame this affliction on a run-in with a shetani (Langwick 93). Vampires represent malicious forces that attack people and that is what the Vampire Makonde mask depicts. Makonde helmet masks have many different designs and each design has a completely different meaning or function. Makonde mask making is unique because it is an unstable and restless art form (Bortolot 9). Every helmet mask has its own history behind it and the Vampire Makonde Mask is just another example of this. People are always trying to find a way to deal with the misfortune and creating a mask to symbolize misfortune is another mechanism to cope with the pains of life. These helmet masks may seem like nothing at first glance but the masks have a complex, rich
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