A woman’s mask from West Africa

The Sande Society prepares young women for adulthood in the Mende and Temne cultures of Sierra Leone. These black helmet masks that fit over the head and down to the shoulders are the only masks in Africa worn by women. These unique ceremonial masks are called Sowos and have voluminous neck-rings, very small faces, large heads, and all kinds of coiffures. But they can also have other things that are different, such as horns, abstract sculpture, different animals, and much more.

There are plenty of female characters in African masquerade, but they are always portrayed by male dancers. I have seen collections of Sande Society masks that show an amazing amount of variety. I’ve included views of different masks. You can see some of the differences this way.

There are collectors who specialize in the Lipiko masks of the Makonde people of Mozambique, the Pascola masks of Northern Mexico, etc., etc., etc.  This kind of focused collecting can be very satisfying as you become involved in the history and customs of a particular culture. The Mask Man does just the opposite and collects every mask under the sun. I don’t recommend that!




One Comment

  • Bob Ibold

    I hope you will tell the Mask Man about your specialized collection. Thanks in advance for posting your comment. Bob

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