Collection online

helmet mask

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    Af1943,02.15

  • Description

    Sowei mask. Carved wooden helmet mask in the form of a human face, stained black. Small facial features; three-lobed hairstyle with elaborate carved geometric panels. Mask surmounted by four birds and further decorated with two large rectangular flaps at each side, two circular plaques at the back and two circular plaques framing the face. Three neck rings, compressed under chin. Mask stands on angled pedestal base which is pierced with small holes for the attachment of the black-dyed raffia fringe.

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  • Date

    • 20thC (early)
  • Production place

  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 39 centimetres (mask only)
    • Width: 19 centimetres
    • Depth: 24 centimetres
  • Curator's comments

    Carved wooden helmet mask used by the exclusively female Sande (Mende) or Bondo/Bundu (Temne) societies. The mask is traditionally worn by a high-ranking member of the society, the dancing sowei, known as the 'ndoli jowei' among the Mende or 'a-Nowo' among the Temne.

    Worn with a raffia costume, the masks typically have a polished black finish, with neck rings, elaborate coiffure and dignified facial expression. The mask is thought to represent conceptions of idealised womanhood.

    The flaps and circular plaques seen on this mask are known as 'kololewengoi' which are decorative elements on Mende male costume, particularly relating to dance and entertainment.

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  • Location

    Not on display

  • Condition

    Good.

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1943

  • Department

    Africa, Oceania & the Americas

  • Registration number

    Af1943,02.15

Bundu mask; carved from wood; in the form of a chieftainess wearing an elaborate carved headdress or coiffure surmounted by four figures in form of birds on a raised base; skirt of fibre tied around bottom edge of mask.

Bundu mask; carved from wood; in the form of a chieftainess wearing an elaborate carved headdress or coiffure surmounted by four figures in form of birds on a raised base; skirt of fibre tied around bottom edge of mask.

Image description

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Object reference number: EAF4489

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