Object Name: Sowei mask
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
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.