In some African traditions the belly mask, carved out of a single tree trunk, was worn by pregnant women celebrating fertility. But for the Makonde tribe of South East Tanzania the mask is worn as part of a complete costume by a young male dancer as a rite of passage. His dance would emphasize the difficulty of child birth.
Elsewhere, in Senegal and Mali, the belly mask is worn as a status symbol by pregnant women. As shown by the wear marks on the breasts and belly, the mask is rubbed by women who wish to become pregnant or simply for good luck.
The mask measures 22″ tall, 11″ wide and 10″ deep and has been embellished with cowrie shells. Bands of tribal scarification are seen on the belly. Age is unknown but most likely dates to the early 1900’s.
The Hauser gallery is fortunate to have this marvelous Makonde Belly Mask. The breast, pregnant belly and scarifications promote and celebrate fertility. The solid wood mask sells for $900.