Africa

Chewa mask from Malawi

The Chewa are a Bantu people of central and southern Africa and the largest ethnic group in Malawi. Internationally, the Chewa are mainly known for their masks and their secret societies, called Nyau. Historically, all Chewa men belonged to the secret Nyau society. The society’s masks represent the spirits of the deceased, but they can also be bush spirits or personalities from the wider community including Swahili slave traders, British officials, the Virgin Mary and others with antisocial traits and undesirable values. Unlike most West African masks, these Nyau faces often remind you of someone. This one is particularly special in its color combinations. By searching the Africa category on this site you can see the Chewa characterization of Elvis Presley– one of the best loved African masks in the Brooklyn Museum. A

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