- Label Text
- Sowei masks, unlike most African masks, are actually worn by women. They epitomize Mende ideals of feminine beauty and related moral values. The elaborate hairstyle is a sign that the woman is a good person whose close friends helped adorn her. The neck rings represent either rings admired as marks of beauty or ripples of water--the disturbance created when the Sande leader draws Sowei from her water home. The pith helmet and guns relate it to hunting and perhaps suggest the protective aspect of Sowei.
- Wood helmet mask of female head with basket-weave hairstyle, neck rings, divided almond eyes and plain straight mouth. Head is surmounted by carved elements of amulet, guns, pith helmet and a knotted snake. Blackened surface.
- Mr. and Mrs. Harry Schaeffer, Larchmont, New York, -- to 1968
- Exhibition History
- Currents: Water in African Art, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., June 2016-ongoing
- Through African Eyes: The European in African Art, 1500 to Present, Detroit Institute of Arts, April 18-August 8, 2010; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, September 25, 2010-January 9, 2011
- The Stranger Among Us, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., March 24-September 7, 1982
- Published References
- Quarcoopome, Nii (ed). 2009. Through African Eyes: The European in African Art, 1500 to Present. Detroit: Detroit Museum of Art, pp. 254-255, no. 71.
- Data Source
- National Museum of African Art
- Mende artist
- Mid-20th century
- Credit Line
- Gift of Harry and Freda Schaeffer
- H x W x D: 40.1 x 23.5 x 26.6 cm (15 13/16 x 9 1/4 x 10 1/2 in.)