Mask (mwana pwo)

A naturalistic rendering of a human face. Eyes carved in relief are convex and almond-shaped with narrow slits and are placed in round, concave eye sockets. Nose is slender at the bridge and rounded at the tip. The horizontal mouth is partially opened. Half rounded ears display metal loops. The "hair" is attached with a cloth headband high on forehead and is made from clay and red tukula powder. The face shows striated, scarifcation patters underneath and to the sides of the eyes; the forehead shows is a chingelyengelye cross motif. The patina is smooth and redish brown in color.
Artist Unknown, African, Chokwe Peoples Angola
c. 1890
This mask represents pwo, the beautiful and poised female ancestor honored in the makishi masquerades performed by the Chokwe and neighboring peoples in Zambia, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Pwo is the most popular of all makishi, or masked characters that embody spirits. Though danced on other occasions, pwo is most closely associated with the boys’ mukanda initiation. Among the female persona portrayed in the makishi repertoire, the pwo (ancestor) and mwana pwo (young woman) characters represent the ideals of “fulfilled” and “potential” womanhood. Masks are completed by full-body costumes made from woven fiber or cotton and a wraparound skirt made from imported fabrics.
Gift of Candis and Helmut Stern
Wednesday, August 5, 2020