Lot: 114

85th Tribal Art Auction

Helmet mask "sowei"

Sierra Leone, Mende

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
Old English Collection H: 16.5 inch This object is not available anymore.

wood, rich blackish brown patina, typical form with compressed facial plane and bulging neck rolls, elaborated coiffure carved with a wreath of animal claws(?), crowned by tripartite crest and small bird sculpture (duck?), drilled holes in two rows around rim, old collection number on the inside "MISC 11", slightly dam., minor missing part (bird beak), abrasion fo paint (nose); such helmet masks are commissioned and worn by women, although carved by men. They are associated with the education and socialization of young females, and their excision ceremonies are supervised by the "bundu" or "sande" societies. Senior women wear these masks at the termination of initiation ceremonies in order to embody their patron spirit, a persona of fecundity and grace, known as "sowei".