The Mende Sowei/Bundu Mask of the Sande Society

The Mende Sowei/Bundu Mask of the Sande Society

Posted by Admin on 7/31/2017 to African Art Information
The Masks of the all female Sande society of the Mende people from Sierra Leone, known as Sowei, or more commonly by the western name Bundu are danced in right of passage ceremonies that signify a girl's transition into womanhood.  The expressions of these masks vary widely, but represent the local ideals of feminine beauty (elaborate hairstyle, full forehead and small facial features), health and serenity.  Sande officials would commission a male carver to produce the mask in secret

The masquerader (a woman) would dance this type of mask wearing a black raffia and thick cotton costume that would completely conceal her identity.  Her dance could last for up to over two hours.

Below is a video explaining more about the Mende Sowei mask and the Sand society masquerade.

Bundu or Sowei Helmet Mask (Ndoli Jowei), Mende, Nguabu Master (Moyamba district, Sierra Leone), late 19th-early 20th century, wood and pigment, 39.4 x 23.5 x 26 cm (Brooklyn Museum) Speakers: Dr. Peri Klemm and Dr. Steven Zucker.
Video courtesy of AP Art History.  Visit their Youtube channel. AP Art History.