The Dying Nyau Masquerades of Malawi
Nyau is a secret society of the Chewa, an ethnic tribe of the Bantu.
The Nyau consist of initiates that are regarded as mature members of the society. The Nyau society is made up of people from the Chewa and Nyanja people.
Whenever the Nyau performs with the mask, women and children run away into their houses because they are considered fierce representing male knowledge.
There are men that wear the masks and are considered as the spirits of the dead. And understandably as spirits, the masquerades may act with impunity and allegedly there have been attacks and deaths during performances in the past. But due to westernization, the activities of the Nyau has reduced.
This Nyau tradition is very old and dates as far back as the 17th century and their belief includes communication with the dead. And they also believe that God is present in every life form. They believe that God is both male and female. The male god is in the sky and the female is on earth.
Read also: Ancient village that predates pharaohs discovered in Egypt
The initiation of men into the secret society starts with the men living in a wooded grove where dead people have been buried in the past. They scare people who try to interview them by saying in their native tongue ‘you are now playing with fire you will get burnt’.
Typically, the Nyau perform their masked dances during burial ceremonies, memorials or during their initiations.
Girls are also initiated into this society, for them, it is called Chinamwali.
During the dance, each person represents the mask of the animals which they wear. There is a hierarchy in the different forms of structures worn and the wilder the animal the fiercer their performance.
Kenyan govt to convert ‘evil cult’ forest into a memorial site
The Kenyan government says it plans to convert the Shakahola Forest, where bodies of over 250 members of a Christian cult led by Pastor Paul Mackenzie were exhumed, into a national memorial.
The eastern African country was thrown into a frenzy in April when some followers of the pastor reportedly died after he instructed them to starve to death so they could meet with Jesus.
Kenya’s Interior Minister, Kithure Kindiki, who disclosed the intentions of the government at a press conference on Tuesday, said once the recovery of the bodies buried in the 800-acre forest was complete, the forest would be “turned into a place of remembrance so that people won’t forget what happened there.”
The minister added that the government had enough evidence to prosecute the leader of the cult and the main suspect, Pastor Mackenzie, on charges of genocide after he allegedly convinced his followers to fast to death in order to go to heaven.
“Most of the victims, including children, died of starvation but some were strangled, beaten, or suffocated,” Kindiki said, quoting autopsy reports.
Kindiki said investigations had shown that the cult’s activities extended beyond the Shakahola Forest, adding that investigations had extended to the larger 37,000-acre Chakama ranch in the area.
“Security roads are being constructed to provide access to the expansive area as search and rescue operations and investigations continues,” he said.
Scientists discover world’s oldest burial site in South Africa
Scientists in South Africa say they have discovered the oldest-known burial site in the world “containing remains of a small-brained distant relative of humans previously thought incapable of complex behaviour,” world-renowned palaeoanthropologist, Lee Berger, who led the team of researchers, said on Monday.
The find was announced by the University of the Witwatersrand, the National Geographic Society and the South African National Research Foundation, and published in the journal, eLife.
It challenges the understanding of human evolution which is normally held that the development of bigger brains allowed for the performing of complex functions.
Berger said the research team uncovered evidence that “members of a mysterious archaic human species buried their dead and carved symbols on cave walls long before the earliest evidence of burials by modern humans.”
“The brains belonging to the extinct species, known as Homo naledi, were around one-third the size of a modern human brain,” he said in a statement while announcing the result of the discovery.
“These revelations could change the understanding of human evolution, because until now, such behaviors only have been associated with larger-brained Homo sapiens and Neanderthals,” he added.
According to the palaeoanthropologist, the team discovered several specimens of Homo naledi, a tree-climbing, Stone Age hominid, buried about 30 metres (100 feet) underground in a cave system within the Cradle of Humankind located in Johannesburg, which has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“These are the most ancient interments yet recorded in the hominin record, earlier than evidence of Homo sapiens interments by at least 100,000 years,” Berger wrote.
Before the discovery, the oldest burials previously unearthed were found in the Middle East which contained the remains of Homo sapiens and were around 100,000 years old.
But the South African find reportedly dates back to at least 200,000 BC.
“These discoveries show that mortuary practices were not limited to H. sapiens or other hominins with large brain sizes,” Berger said.
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