Mwana pwo Mask (Primary Title)

Unknown (Artist)

19th-20th century
Tschokwe
wood, glass beads, fiber, pigment
Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo
Overall: 13 1/8 × 5 5/8 × 5 1/2 in. (33.34 × 14.29 × 13.97 cm)
Overall (with cloth): 20 3/16 in. (51.28 cm)
2007.87

Tchokwe mwana pwo masks represent a female ancestor. These, along with other masks, are associated with initiation camps for boys about 8 to 12 years old. In a secluded location outside the village, the boys receive instruction and are circumcised. Mwana pwo and the other masks act as intermediaries between the initiates and the village, especially between the boys and their mothers.

The forehead of this mask is inscribed with the four-pointed dikenga symbol, the Kongo culture’s cosmogram, or sign of the life cycle, on which the layout of this gallery is based. The pervasive use of the dikenga among the Tchokwe and neighboring groups in Angola, as well as other cultured in the Congo and Gabon, illustrates the deeply rooted meaning of this eloquent symbol over a wide region.

Gift of Roger A. Provencher
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

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