From: Crocker Art Museum Limited Edition: 11 Exhibition: Crocker Art Museum Expansion Material: Printed vinyl Dimensions: 30" x 96" (76cm x 243cm)
Hanging Hardware Included
Graveyards for the Dead Central Africans used makishi, or character, masks 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.
On October 10, 2010 (10-10-10), the Crocker Museum opened its doors to an expansion that tripled its size. In addition to adding new space for traveling exhibitions, the expansion increased the space available for the Crocker’s permanent holdings, including its African Art collection.
Art figures prominently in daily life across sub-Saharan Africa. Objects of personal adornment such as fabrics, masks, and amulets speak volumes about the person wearing them and where they live. Often these items bear special cultural significance or help a community persevere during hard times.
One such item in the Crocker collection is the mid-20th century Chukuza mask shown on the front of this banner. The Chukuza is a kind of makishi, or character, mask used in masquerade traditions, especially initiation ceremonies. Though women, uninitiated boys, and outsiders may interact with the makishi in such ceremonies, the masks are made and performed only by initiated men. A masquerade can consist of hundreds of characters or spirits -- some friendly, some aggressive, some ancestral, some contemporary -- for various purposes. In the case of an initiation ceremony, the chosen makishi are invoked to guide and protect the boys while they are sequestered at the initiation camp.
The Chukuza mask is made from barkcloth, pigment, string, sticks, raffia, paper, and cloth, all of which resemble the character portrayed. The Swahili dictionary defines Chukuza as "to employ someone to carry something, hire as a bearer." Perhaps the string and raffia on the mask represent the straps that carry the load of sticks.
The Chukuza mask banner is presented on a white background and at the bottom is a large black band with “OPENING/10-10-10” in white letters. Both sides of the banner are identical.
This banner was displayed around the Sacramento area to promote the October 10, 2010 opening of the museum's expansion designed by Charles Gwathmey.