History of The Makonde People
The Makonde tribe is a group of Southern Eastern Bantus found mainly in the region bordering Mozambique and Tanzania. Best known for their wood carvings (family tree) derived from Ebony and Rosewoods.The Makonde people have such a reverence for the mystique world and ancestral worship is highly celebreted. The spirit world is very notable in their artwork and depiction of the spirit form is a part and parcel of their work.
The Makonde people have become masters of their art skill and their carvings are sold in local and international markets.These carvings revolve around three main areas.The Mawingu (Clouds), Ujamaa (Community) and Wanyama (Animals). More traditional artf orms still exist, the carvings of masks (Mapiko) and other functional art forms still continues today for ceremonial purposes.
- Mawingu (Clouds). Essentially depict the spirit world and also their connection to the humans. Mostly are faceless abstracts (like the clouds), but occassionally a known spirit will have it's features fully detailed on the work. Masks play a huge role in these aspect too and also for the preservation of history. This work is entirely hand made using very crude traditional tools.
- Ujamaa (Family tree). These is family life and encompasses family traditions and their importance (family preservation). The most important feature about these carvings (family tree), is the idea of many figures on one individual piece. Most pieces can take up to several months to complete depending on the size. Individual figurines are usually action oriented, farming, cutting wood, fetching water etc.
- Wanyama (Animals). Although not very well developed in detail, a few animals will be carved out. eg.girrafes,rhino,elephants etc.Animals tend to take a negative slide in their depiction because of their savagery and human suffering they cause.They even play a mystical role in society.In the Makonde art they are certainly depicted in those moments.
Culturally the Makonde people still maintain their traditionnal customs. Influence in religion especially Islam and Christianity has become embedded in their ever changing world. Immigration to other regions due to economics, political reasons now see the Makonde in other parts of Africa i.e. South Africa and East Africa and the rest of the world.This has caused a change in their ethno cultural traditions. Most Makonde become trades people, wood workers, fishermen and notably artist.( woodcarvers,painters and carpenters.)