Beaded Tabwa Masks and Divination Rituals Essay

Beaded Tabwa Masks and Divination Rituals Essay

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South-west of Lake Tanganyika is an area home to the Tabwa people. Composing of about six major clans, the Tabwa population reached around 200,000 people. Tabwa societies survive off the land from farming and fishing. Small villages led by chiefs comprised the political structure of Tabwa life. There were no major rulers or states. Living at a key crossroad for people, goods, and philosophies, the Tabwa people were greatly swayed by different types of people, the slave trade, and the ivory trade. Religion has always been fundamental to many people’s lives. Both religion and divination played a role in Tabwa life. Intuitive in nature, these people seek enlightenment. Tabwa constantly wonder why things happen and how they happen. Divination is imperative in finding solutions and help, fixing problems, and bettering situations for the future. Masks are sporadic in Tabwa culture, but they are essential to many religious activities and performances. Tabwa beaded masks’ main purpose was to seek guidance from spirits through divination possession rituals. One can tell the object is a mask because of the prominent facial features, holes for the eyes and mouth, and the nose protrudes. Another indicator is the fabric tie used to fasten the mask to one’s head. Beading makes up the face. The backside is animal pelts, and outlining the face are feathers. This object was most likely sewn together. Vibrancy and texture are added through an assortment of materials. The intricate beadwork shows the peace’s importance. Its composition is symmetrical with a closed silhouette. The animal pelts and feathers bring the eye down and into the face. Diverse designs of triangles, zigzags, lines, stripes, and even circles also bring emphasis to the face. T...


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...nderstanding. This beaded mask was created in Zambia between the mid-nineteenth and twentieth century. One can tell the importance of the mask by looking at its complexity and the major variety of symbols. Clearly, the Tabwa people were very religious and spiritual. Religion was important for the people and the survival of their traditions. If religion would have diminished with colonial rule, beaded masks and divination would have never become part of their religion. Many traditions are present in religion. Being religion orientated helps people understand the meaning of life better. The Tabwa people believed the meaning of life was to give birth. But, the infant death rate was very high. By residing and having faith in the spirits, they believed good fortune could come to them. The Tabwa people were complex in their beliefs, but religion was always a central focus.

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