Woven Grass Masks for Initiates
Arts and Crafts in Rural South Africa

©Dr Peter Magubane
Grass is used in making various objects related to initiation. Among the South Sotho, for example, female initiates learn to make woven grass masks which they usually decorate with beadwork or tufts of wool.

©Dr Peter Magubane
The patterns woven into the grass masks South Sotho girls produce during their initiation are virtually identical. Initiates individualise these masks by embellishing them with beadwork panels or tufts of wool.

©Dr Peter Magubane
The grass masks worn by South Sotho girls act as shields, protecting them from the prying eyes of anxious family members and other onlookers on their return to their communities. By covering their faces, these initiates effectively circumvent the potentially damaging psychological impact of abrupt reintegration into their communities.

By Professor Sandra Klopper