Sowei Mask (Primary Title)

Unknown (Artist)

19th-20th century
wood, cowrie shells, string
Sierra Leone
Overall: 17 1/4 × 9 1/2 × 10 3/4 in. (43.82 × 24.13 × 27.31 cm)
This elegant mask, with its stylized face and elaborate hairstyle, embodies the guardian spirit of Sande, a woman’s society of the Mende and neighboring cultures in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Sande guides the development of adolescent girls, and sowei is the only type of African mask exclusively for women. Certain Sande events call for dancing one or more masks. On more serious occasions—when laws of the Sande society are broken, for instance—the mask sits in stern judgment.
Kathleen Boone Samuels Memorial Fund
“Spirit of the Motherland.” Roanoke: Museum of Western Virginia. September 1995- January 1996. Newport News: Peninsula Fine Arts Center. January- May 1996.

“Spotlight Loan.” Martinsville, VA: Piedmont Fine Arts Center. January – 29 February 1988.

“Spotlight Loan.” Newport News, VA: Peninsula Fine Arts Center. March – 9 May 1988.

Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

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