Makishi – Mask Characters of Zambia
Mask Characters of Zambia
By Manuel Jordán
In Makishi: Mask Characters of Zambia, Manuel Jordán reveals the beauty and complexity of the remarkable masquerade traditions of the Chokwe, Mbunda, Lunda, Lwena/Luvale, and Luchazi peoples who live in the "Three Corners" region of northwestern Zambia, northeastern Angola, and southwestern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The distinct yet overlapping mask types and styles used by these groups reflect their continual interaction and demonstrate the constant reformulation of visual and performance genres. Relations among peoples of the "Three Corners" are further complicated by recent refugee flows, and the masquerades that Jordán considers and vividly illustrates in his field photographs reflect histories of compromise and creative tension, as well as contemporary struggles for survival.
While exquisite masks drawn from the Fowler Museum's collections demonstrate long use, Jordán shows how new characters can be created within earlier categories, so that basic dramatic plots are preserved while reference is made to new technologies, foreign encounters, and the dynamics of social interaction in a rapidly changing world. In many ways, as the author astutely argues, the masks are a performative mechanism used to explain, cope with, and, often enough, celebrate life's most difficult transitions and transformations. Makishi vibrantly documents the ability of theater to perpetuate tradition while providing an adaptive leading edge.
Manuel Jordán is the Phyllis Wattis Curator of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas at the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University.