Ceremonial and Performance Artifacts; Masks
Mende, Sierra Leonean, West African, African
When young girls in parts of the West Atlantic region reach a certain age they are initiated into the Sande women’s society, whose purpose is to teach girls the roles of proper women within their communities. Once the training is complete, the girls are then considered women and are brought back into the community to be celebrated. A leader of the women’s society, known as a ndoli jowei, dances in masquerade with this type of helmet mask.
Sande Society helmet masks symbolize an ideal of beauty with their high foreheads, elaborate braided hairstyles, and healthy black complexions. According to oral tradition, the Sande spirit is a water spirit; therefore it is believed that the rings on the neck of the mask symbolize the rippling of water. Among the Temne, the rings of the mask are viewed as the outer shell of a moth undergoing metamorphosis, which represents the girl’s transformation into a mature woman.
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- Refers to the cultures of the continent of Africa, which is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea.
- Small objects worn as protecting charms, as to ward off evil, harm, or illness, or to bring good fortune. For objects specifically cut with astrological or magical symbols, intended to protect the bearer, but not necessarily worn, use "talismans."
- Patterns created by intertwining three or more strands of material into a plait. This is often achieved with human hair or used as the basis of a hairstyle.
- 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.
- Masks that enclose the head entirely or in part, especially those worn during African ceremonies and masquerades.
- Ceremonies formally admitting someone into a community, organization, or other group, or investing them with a particular role or status.
- Refers to coverings for all or part of the face, usually with openings for the eyes and sometimes the mouth. They are worn to hide or alter the identity of the wearer or for protection. Masks as cultural objects have been used throughout the world in all periods since the Stone Age. Masks are extremely varied in appearance, function, and fundamental meaning. They may be associated with ceremonies that have religious and social significance or are concerned with funerary customs, fertility rites, or curing sickness. They may be used on festive occasions or to portray characters in a dramatic performance and in re-enactments of mythological events. They may be used for warfare and as protective devices in certain sports. They are also employed as architectural ornaments.
- Strong fiber from leafstalks of palms of the genus Raphia, native to Africa and other places. Raffia fibers are used in their natural state by splitting apart thick sections and knotting the ends together. The fibers are a pale cream color and are often dyed to bright colors. Raffia is used to make skirts, woven into baskets, hats, bags, and mats. It is also used to make a fine grade of paper similar to Japanese papers.
rites of passage
- Ritual ceremonies performed to facilitate or mark a person's change of status upon any of several important social and personal occasions, such as the onset of puberty.
- Objects used for a particular ritual activity, often as part of a ceremony.
- 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.
- Any of various societies, the members of which are sworn to keep the rules, activities, and purposes secret from nonmembers.
- 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.
- Refers to female human beings from young adulthood through old age.
- 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.
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This object was included in the following exhibitions:
Backtalk: Exposures, Erasures, and Elisions of the Bryn Mawr College African Art Collection
Bryn Mawr College
, Feb 5, 2015 – Jun 1, 2015
Owner Name: Mace Neufeld and Helen Katz Neufeld, Class of 1953
Place: Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, US
Ownership End Date: 7/18/1991
The following Bibliography exist for this object:
Important Tribal Art
New York, NY, 1989
Figure Number: 17
"African Heritage Document and Research Center."
(Accessed June 11, 2020):
Record No.: 0113466.
Related Bibliography List
The following Related Bibliography exist for this object:
(Accessed May 10, 2020):
Ruth B. Phillips,
"Masking in Mende Sande Society Initiation Rituals."
Africa: Journal of the International African Institute
48, no. 3
J. V. Olufemi Richards,
"The Sande Mask."
7, no. 2
"Cosmos, Cosmetics, and the Spirit of Bondo."
18, no. 3
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This object is a member of the following portfolios: