Skip to contentSkip to navigation
Become a Member
Explore today's schedule
Visit MMFA for free by becoming a Member
Learn more
Back
Currently shown

Mwana Pwo Mask

Location

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO, KASAI REGION

Culture

Chokwe

Title

Mwana Pwo Mask

Date

Before 1972

Materials

Wood, vegetable fibre, pigments

Dimensions

35 x 18.3 x 18 cm

Credits

Ernest Gagnon Collection, gift of the Province du Canada français de la Compagnie de Jésus, inv. 1975.F.162

Collection

Archeology and World Cultures

This Mwana Pwo mask depicts an idealized feminine beauty, but its carver was probably inspired by a woman in his community who was admired for her physical attractiveness and her personality. The fibre coiffure replicates the oil-and clay-coated braids of Chokwe women, while the design on the forehead, the cingelyengelye, represents a connection to the divine principle. Its form was perhaps drawn from the cross-shaped pendants introduced to the region by the Portuguese in the seventeenth century. In this matrilineal society, such a mask was worn by a man to honour the women of the community – in particular the female ancestor of the lineage – in a dance that imitated their calm and graceful movements. A very strong bond was forged between the dancer and the mask, which was often placed in his grave.

A touch of culture to your inbox
Subscribe to the Museum newsletter

Bourgie Hall Newsletter sign up

This website uses cookies in order to optimize your browsing experience and for promotional purposes. To learn more, please see our policy on the protection of personal Iinformation