Agbogho Mmwo Mask
Early 20th c.
22.4 cm (h.)
Gift of Guy Laliberté in honour of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts' 150th anniversary, inv. 2011.77
Archeology and World Cultures
Although exclusively for men, the Mmwo secret society used masks depicting women, called agbogho mmwo (literally, “young girl’s spirit”), for their public ceremonies during the dry season or important funerals. Worn by initiates, the masks personified the presence of ancestors in choreographies similar to those in dances reserved for young women, but in exaggerated form. The narrow face would have been accentuated by the wearing of a headdress and a close-fitting, very colourful costume. The facial features, hairstyle and scarifications represent an ideal of beauty, a value indissociable from moral perfection. Among the Igbo, physical beauty is the expression of personal ethics.