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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Forbidden Images: Rock Paintings and the Nyau Secret Society of Central Malawi and Eastern Zambia
Author:Smith, Benjamin W.
Year:2001
Periodical:African Archaeological Review
Volume:18
Issue:4
Period:December
Pages:187-212
Language:English
Geographic term:Malawi
Subjects:Chewa
secret societies
masks
rock art
Architecture and the Arts
Anthropology and Archaeology
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
External link:https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1013139724784
Abstract:Certain rock paintings in eastern Zambia and central Malawi depict the masks of 'nyau', the so-called secret society of the Chewa. Today the paintings are largely forgotten by the descendants of the people who made them; they are now part of history rather than the living ritual landscape. The author unravels the unflaunted secrets contained within this historic art, which dates principally from the 19th and early 20th centuries. He examines the questions of why the art was made and why the tradition ceased. Key to answering these questions is the realization that the art belonged to a specific historical and geographic context: the era and area where 'nyau' was forced to become an underground movement because of its suppression by Ngoni invaders, missions, and the later colonial government. The art provides detailed insights into the way 'nyau' has served in the process of overcoming and manipulating the traumatic social changes faced by Chewa society in the last few centuries. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French.
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