TRIBAL AFRICAN ART

SUKUMA (BASUKUMA, WASUKUMA, ZUKUMA)

Tanzania

The Sukuma people number approximately one million. They live in small villages in the northern part of Tanzania, each of which is headed by a chief who is also a sorcerer and whose power is counterbalanced by secret societies. Sukuma carvers are associated with large, rough-looking, standing figures. In some instances these statues were made either with articulated limbs or were carved without any arms and legs at all. Their bold, rounded heads usually have eyes inset with beads. The figures carved with articulated limbs, known as amaleba, are used by musicians and dancers during ceremonies in the dry season, following the harvest. Another type of tall, carved figure, to which fetish material is attached, is thought to represent an ancestor.

Sukuma masks have a fearful expression, exaggerated features, including applied eyebrows, and a beard and moustache. In common with the amabela, Sukuma masks were also employed during dance ceremonies in the dry season. Terracotta figures with a small head and hands resting on their hips and ivory necklaces were also made by Sukuma craftsmen. (Adapted from J.-B. Bacquart, 1998)

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