X65.4779 Sande Association helmet mask (sowei)

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Object Name: Sande Association helmet mask (sowei)

Artist: Unknown

Culture: Mende peoples

Place of Origin: Sierra Leone

Date/Era: 19th century

Medium/Materials: Wood, pigment, plant fiber

Dimensions: H: 31.0 cm, W: 7.5 cm, D: 8.0 cm (H: 12.2 in, W: 2.9 in, D: 3.1 in)

Credit Line: Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of the Wellcome Trust.

Accession Number: X65.4779

Description

Called sowei, masks such as this one were designed, owned, and worn in performances by women of the Sande association to represent the knowledge gained during initiation. Masked association members danced to the accompaniment of drums, wearing a distinctive black raffia ensemble, and burst into public spaces with sudden and erratic movements to inspire a sense of awe. The appearance of the masks signaled the successful completion of particular phases in the initiation process as women were instructed in the knowledge to prepare them for the rigors and responsibilities of adulthood.

Source: Gallery text, Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives, 2006.

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

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