As you might have figured out by now, the character design in The Journey Down is heavily influenced by tribal African art. Some are loosely based on real life mask designs, some are made up at random with a more generic African vibe to them and others are basically true to their origins with only minor tweaks and simplifications done to better suit the overall setting. Being based on a Makonde lipiko mask, Kito is a prime example of the latter kind.
Apart from the real human hair (gross) and vast scarification found on real-life Mapiko (lipiko mask pl.) masks, Kito’s head is actually a rather faithful replica of genuine Makonde mapiko masks.
Image courtesy of Hamillgallery.com
Art and people
The Makonde are an ethnic group in southeast Tanzania and northern Mozambique who traditionally, from an artistic standpoint, have focused on carving household items, figures and masks. The lipiko mask that Kito is based on is a traditional helmet mask, used in coming of age or initiation rituals. Aside from these traditional Makonde arts, newer branches of Makonde art have emerged, one of them focusing on awesomely warped animal carvings of so called Shetani spirits, depicting evildoers of the spiritual world. (Yes, there is a cognate connection to the English word “Satan”.)
With exception to the animal carvings, the Makonde art form has recently flipped out and sort of semi-merged into the crazily naive tourist-oriented Tinga Tinga art form, popularized by artists such as George Lilanga during the 90’s.
I bet you wish you looked this cool!
Images from makonde.no.sapo.pt