Project Description

17-422 Mende Bundu Society Helmet Mask (sowei)

Sierra Leone

Four birds surrounding a house exemplify the symmetry that is the root of the ideal Mende mask. The Janus double-face aspect represents the power the Sande spirit (Ngafu) has by seeing everything. The fish carved on the sides are symbolic of the Ngafu’s riverine home and the secrets of her power. The bottom of the mask has been smoothed, perhaps for resale after retirement, but it still shows the remnants of the original bore holes from that originally held the black raffia dance costume.

All of the Sowei/Bundu Masks in this exhibition were collected and donated to our museum by Dr. Pascal J. Imperato and Eleanor M. Imperato.