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Sande Society Sowei Helmet Mask

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unknown Mende
Mende (active ) Primary

Sande Society Sowei Helmet Mask

Mid 20th century
Carved wood, dyed raffia

15.748 x 10.236 in. (diameter) (40 x 26 cm)

Bryn Mawr College
Accession Number: 2016.14.20
Geography: Africa, Sierra Leone
Classification: Ceremonial and Performance Artifacts; Masks
Culture/Nationality: Mende, Sierra Leonean, West African, African
Collection: Jane Martin Collection

Keywords Click a term to view the records with the same keyword
This object has the following keywords:
  • African - Refers to the cultures of the continent of Africa, which is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea.
  • carvings - Refers to works executed by cutting a figure or design out of a solid material such as stone or wood. It typically refers to works that are relatively small in size, are part of a larger work, or are not considered art. For large and medium-sized three-dimensional works of art, use the broader term "sculpture" or another appropriate term.
  • ceremonial masks - Refers to masks created for or used in ceremonies or rituals.
  • helmet masks - Masks that enclose the head entirely or in part, especially those worn during African ceremonies and masquerades.
  • initiations - Ceremonies formally admitting someone into a community, organization, or other group, or investing them with a particular role or status.
  • Mende
  • ritual objects - Objects used for a particular ritual activity, often as part of a ceremony.
  • scarification - Permanent marking of the human body, as with symbols, patterns, or other designs, by means of producing raised scars, done for social or cultural reasons or for adornment.
  • scarifications - Refers to permanent marks, such as symbols, patterns, or other designs, made on human skin by scarring, done for social or cultural reasons or for personal decoration.
  • secret societies - Any of various societies, the members of which are sworn to keep the rules, activities, and purposes secret from nonmembers.
  • West African - Styles and cultures from the region comprising the westernmost area of the African continent, defined by the United Nations as including the modern nations of Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.
  • women - Refers to female human beings from young adulthood through old age.
  • wood - The principal tissue of trees and other plants that provides both strength and a means of conducting nutrients. Wood is one of the most versatile materials known.

Additional Images Click an image to view a larger version
Additional Image 2016.14.20_BMC_f_2.jpg
Additional Image 2016.14.20_BMC_b.jpg
Additional Image 2016.14.20_BMC_b_2.jpg
Additional Image 2016.14.20_BMC_f.jpg
Additional Image 2016.14.20_BMC_pl.jpg
Additional Image 2016.14.20_BMC_pl_2.jpg
Additional Image 2016.14.20_BMC_pr.jpg
Additional Image 2016.14.20_BMC_pr_2.jpg
Additional Image 2016.14.20_BMC_r.jpg
Additional Image 2016.14.20_BMC_r_2.jpg
Additional Image 2016.14.20_BMC_t.jpg
Additional Image 2016.14.20_BMC_t_2.jpg

  • Owner Name: Jane Martin, Class of 1953
    Role: Donor
    Place: Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
    Ownership Start Date: March 1984
    Ownership End Date: May 1, 2016

  • Owner Name: Sori (?)
    Role: Seller
    Place: Liberia
    Ownership End Date: March 1984
    Remarks: Likely purchased in Monrovia, Liberia

Bibliography List
The following Bibliography exist for this object:
  • "African Heritage Document and Research Center." (Accessed June 11, 2020): Record No.: 0177781.

Comparanda List
The following Comparanda exist for this object:
  • "African Heritage Document and Research Center." (Accessed June 11, 2020): Record No.: 0114199.
  • "African Heritage Document and Research Center." (Accessed June 11, 2020): Record No.: 0114200.
  • Lewis T. Wells, "Art and Expatriates in Liberia." Tribal Art No. 55 14, no. 2 (Spring, 2010): 104, Figure Number: 15.

Related Bibliography List
The following Related Bibliography exist for this object:
  • Ruth B. Phillips, Representing Woman: Sande Masquerades of the Mende of Sierra Leone (Los Angeles, CA: Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 1995), 118. Figure Number: 6.5ab
  • Frederick Lamp, "Cosmos, Cosmetics, and the Spirit of Bondo." African Arts 18, no. 3 (May 1985): 28-43, 98-99.
  • Syvlia Ardyn Boone, Radiance from the Waters: Ideals of Feminine Beauty in Mende Art (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1986), 153-161. Figure Number: 54

Portfolio List Click a portfolio name to view all the objects in that portfolio
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If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=BMC>cite web |url= |title=Sande Society Sowei Helmet Mask |author=Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections |accessdate=6/8/2023 |publisher=Bryn Mawr College</ref>

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