Sande Society mask of the Mende

Sierra Leone

aaaMystrySolvd-857bQ:  I just got this from a private auction.  I paid less than $100, but I consider it to be very high quality.  I already had 2 Mende helmets in my collection, both of reasonably high quality, but when I saw this, I knew it was exceptionally well done.  So I bid on it and won at a much lower price than I expected.   Aaron, 857

A:  I’m so pleased that Aaron is sharing this with us. It’s a famous helmet mask worn only by women, which is very unusual in West Africa. But what I want to try to explain is why this work of art is so superior to the many others I have seen. The carver is both very creative and skillful. Look carefully at the beautifully shaped face, neck folds, and braided hair. Then contrast that with the irregularly curved protrusions on the top of the head.  You can see wonderful examples of these Bundus (also called Sowei masks) in some of the African collections at major art museums, but those helmet masks will be much older than this one. This one proves that high-quality traditional art continues to be made by the better craftsmen in West Africa… and that some of this blog’s readers could easily afford such a masterpiece.  A+

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