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Helmet Mask (sowei) (work of art)

Artwork Info

Artist Details
Sierra Leone (Sewa and Mende)
20th century-
metal, Wood
20th century
14 1/8 x 8 3/4 x 9 in.
(35.9 x 22.2 x 22.9 cm)


Among the Mende and neighboring groups, the Sande society is responsible for educating girls as they become women. During coming-of-age ceremonies, masqueraders appear in wooden helmet masks and raffia costumes. Though carved by men, the masks are worn and danced by female Sande society members, a rarity in Africa, where masqueraders are customarily male. The mask’s form highlights Mende ideals of feminine beauty.

tags: fashion, ceremony, movement, function, identity, interdependence, ritual, pattern, community


  • Sande Society Helmet Mask (sowei)

    Helmet Mask (sowei) by Sewa Mende artist; Sande Society

  • Sande Society Helmet Mask (sowei)

    Helmet Mask (sowei)

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Gift of the James G. Hanes Memorial Fund, 1973