X81.224 Mask

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Pwo (woman)
Chokwe peoples
Late 19th-20th century
Wood, raffia string, plant fiber, pigment, cotton, fabric
H: 47.0 cm, W: 24.0 cm, D: 28.0 cm (H: 18.5 in, W: 9.4 in, D: 11.0 in)
Anonymous gift. X81.224


These two northern-style Chokwe masks are instructive as points of comparison with Zambian examples. Both of these masks represent Pwevo, the female ancestor, or Pwo, as she is known in Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Both masks have the typically Chokwe slit eyes, but one of the masks (right?/left?) features a distinctive Chokwe treatment of the mouth with pointed, angular teeth, reflecting the nineteenth-century Chokwe practice of filing the teeth. This practice was both a mark of beauty and a sign of cultural belonging. Northern masks are typically deeper than Zambian examples and cover more of a performer’s face. The woven wig seen on the mask at the left?/right? is of a type that was worn by Chokwe women until the 1960s. Another type of Chokwe hairstyle is carved as part of the Angolan mask.