30.11.2009 -

Makishi Masquerade cultural practice in Zambia

Girl dancing at Makisha restoration ceremony

The two-year implementation of the project on the safeguarding of the Makishi Masquerade cultural practice in Zambia has been concluded.

The UNESCO-Japan Funds-in-Trust project for the preservation and promotion of intangible cultural heritage which stretched over the 2008 and 2009 period came to an end this December after meeting most of its objectives despite challenges along the way.  The Action Plan for the Safeguarding of the Makishi Masquerade of Zambia sought to provide sustainable foundations for the transmission of skills to the younger generations and to promote awareness of the value and of the importance to safeguard this cultural expression among the Vaka Chinyama Cha Mukwamayi cultural grouping.

The Makishi Masquearde, which was proclaimed a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in November 2005, is performed at the end of the Mukanda, an initiation ritual for the boys, which is practiced in the North-western province of Zambia.  During the Mukanda adolescent boys live for one to three months at a bush camp away from their villages where they are taught practical survival skills as well as knowledge about nature, religion, social practices and values.  At the end of the initiation period, the boys are re-integrated into the community at a graduation ceremony where the Makishi Masquerade, a dance involving pantomime-like artistry, is performed for them. 

The Makishi Masquerade with their colorful costumes is not only a representation of ancestral forces brought to life from the spirit world; they are in fact poignant metaphors for manifesting many aspects and culture of the Luvale people.  The celebrated Mukanda ritual involves circumcision of the initiates, tests of courage and lessons on sexuality, culture and social values in preparation of the boys’ future roles as men and husbands.

Activities for the just-ended project were divided into the following five components:

Supporting administrative mechanism and monitoringLegal protection for the cultural practiceIntergenerational and peer transmission, and transmission through school of the ritual and practiceResearch, documentation and archivingAwareness-raising

The project, which was launched by the now President of Zambia, His Excellency Rupia Banda in 2008, accomplished its main objectives of raising awareness of the cultural practice and promoting its intergenerational transmission. Identified next steps include the integration of the practice into the formal school curriculum as well as the development of legal instruments to enhance the transmission and safeguarding of the Makishi practice. 

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