A Makonde Moment

Photo: PD—US—1900

While I rested in the Aga Khan Hospital in Dar es Salaam after giving birth to my daughter, a women entered the room with a mop.

I followed her sweeping movements as she sloshed across the floor before I spied her scared face. My eyes were glued to the artistic designs until she noticed my stare. That’s when a great guffaw escaped her mouth to display a mighty smile with no front teeth.

Later I discovered the history behind the facial art applied to Makonde women from Northern Mozambique and Southern Tanzania. The practices dated from the slave trade era, and were intended to deter slave traders from wanting to capture the women.