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.