X2002.33.6 Likishi mask

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Object Name: Likishi mask (pwevo)

Artist: Unknown

Culture: Mbunda peoples

Place of Origin: Zambia

Date/Era: 20th century

Dimensions: H: 23 cm

Medium/Materials: Wood

Credit Line: Fowler Museum at UCLA. Museum purchase with funds provided by Jay T. Last.

Accession Number: X2002.33.6


Helmet-type masks like this one are extremely rare among the peoples featured in this exhibition. Without the hair or headdress that would once have been attached, it is difficult to identify the character represented, but it is most likely the archetypal woman, Pwevo. The three lines below each eye represent scarification marks known as masoji, or tears. These may be interpreted as “tears of accomplishment,” and in the context of initiation they may honor the lament of mothers whose sons will undergo a symbolic death in mukanda so that they may be reborn as adults upon graduation.

Source: Gallery text, Fowler in Focus, Makishi: Mask Characters of Zambia,2007.

See also: Marla C. Berns, World Arts, Local Lives: The Collections of the Fowler Museum at UCLA. Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, 2014.