These masks have not been vetted. Until they are, our default position is that they may have been made to be sold.
The most important event in the Yaka ceremonial cycle is the initiation of young boys into adulthood. To mark the end of the educational period, festivities are held in which the initiates perform with newly carved masks. Additionally, it showcases the most startling masks and the most spectacular dances.
Initiation, mukhanda, includes circumcision which is a crucial part of Yaka life. Circumcision and initiation, mandatory for all young men, are organized in a remote place called mukhanda-mu-msitu. The rituals are organized by the main secret societies : ngoni and yiwilla.
These masks are carved for initiation and are used only once. The carver (muumbwa) repairs and carves new masks for circumcisions which are danced in pairs or groups, except the mask worn by the tutor's leader who dances alone. Masked dancer first asks permission and begs gifts wherever the initiates travel to perform. The ritual expert and his aide, the senior tutor, the sculptor, and the initiates wear different masks. The most common masks (kholuka) are used by initiates and vary greatly. A tutor wears a zoomorphic mask named mpakasa (examples are masks 6 and 14 on Yaka masks archives page). During its performance, the mask was held by a handle hidden behind the raffia cloth (showing only on mask 13 on Yaka masks archives page).
Most Yaka masks have a painted cloth shape or figure(s) fastened over a reed structure as shown in the detail from mask 2. Several masks are completely of wood and include no cloth (Numbers 4, 11, 12, and 19).
* This mask was selected by the Fitchburg Art Museum, Fitchburg, Massachusetts and donated to their collection
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