Project Description

Mende Sande Society Mask (sowei)
Sierra Leone

A black dye made by grinding njui (njekoi) leaves in a pestle and mortar and then boiling them with water for several days was applied over the years to attain this high luster. The hairstyle is dominated by four large vertical buns. Scarifications (ngaya maki) are present beneath the eyes and also along the outer sides of the eyes. Another line of rectangle forms in relief on the forehead also represents traditional scarifications. Scarification is no longer widely practiced by the Mende peoples. A remnant of the black raffia costume is attached through carved holes in the rim of the last of four large neck rings.

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.