Oct 30, 2009
Oct 30, 2009

Mask (mwana pwo)

Mask (mwana pwo)

c. 1930s

Wood, reeds, plant fiber, burlap, natural fiber (possibly cotton), and colorant

Overall: 21.6 cm (8 1/2 in.)

Gift of Katherine C. White 1978.27


Did you know?

The costume this mask was worn with would have been made from the same netted fibers attached at its bottom.


Emotional well-being and stability are valued in many African cultures and these qualities are mirrored in the Mwana Pwo Face Mask. It embodies ideal cultural standards of feminine beauty (beauty marks, elaborate hairstyle, fertility, and good character) and represents a distinguished female ancestor among Chokwe communities of southwestern Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo. The mask would have been danced by an itinerant male performer wearing a body suit and role-playing as a woman; women do not typically wear masks in most African societies.

See also

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