A striking new banner used to celebrate the Crocker Art Museum’s expansion in 2010 features a Central African makishi mask. The makishi, or character, masks were used in their masquerade traditions, including ceremonies for the initiation of boys into manhood. The masks invoke important spiritual characters and contain symbols that represent the forces of the universe. When the long and complex initiation process is complete, the masks are burned or buried, returning them to the dead according to custom.
Westerners who participate in these ceremonies are sometimes gifted or sold a mask. Makishi mask expert, Manuel Jordan Perez, described how he obtained his first mask; his African “father” explained, “You come from the West. So you are from the world of the dead anyway. Why don’t you take it with you? We’ll be proud. Just don’t bring it back.” So, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that museums are graveyards for “retired” Chukuza masks.