X86.1100 Sowei mask

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Object Name: Sowei mask

Artist: Unknown

Cultural Group: Mende peoples

Place of Origin: Sierra Leone

Date: Early 20th century

Dimensions: L: 23.00 cm, H: 48.50 cm, D: 27.00 cm

Materials Used: Wood, raffia, pigment

Credit Line and Accession Number: Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift in memory of Barbara Jean Jacoby. X86.1100

Category:
Description

This eastern Mende mask is decorated with five incised discs and surmounted by a bird. Mende peoples generally identified the bird as a dove and suggested that it indicated that the sowei could dance very well, like a bird. Birds also appear in Mende folktales as messengers between the denizens of the spirit world-particularly river spirits-and humans.

Source: Exhibition wall text, The Art of Women’s Masquerades in Sierra Leone.

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