Baga, Gola, Temne, Via, Kpelle, De, Bassa.ORIGIN:
Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Eastern Ivory Coast MEDIUM:
22" Tall (55.9 cm) TallCONDITION:
24 Collection - Florida, USA.
Several different cultural peoples, such as the Gola, Temne, Mende, Vai, Kpelle, De, and Bassa, belong to the Sande and Poro societies found throughout Sierra Leone and Liberia, parts of Guinea, and as far east as the borders of the Ivory Coast in West Africa. Sande and Poro societies play a major social role in the local community life of many villages. They teach young men and women the domestic skills and knowledge they will need as married adults. Poro is the secret society for men, responsible for initiating boys into manhood, while its counterpart, Sande, initiates girls into womanhood. They are "secret" in the sense that members of each society have certain knowledge that can only be shared with other initiates.
Masquerades are an essential element of these prevalent associations. Masked performers not only appear during initiation ceremonies, but many other important social occasions. The masks worn by Sande and Poro members possess unique characteristics and embellishments, while adhering to established aesthetic criteria.
Among the Poro society, the Vai, Mende, Gola, De, and Southern Kpelle have a helmet-shaped wooden mask known as gbetu or bowu. A stylized version of the sowei masks of the Sande society, the gbetu or bowu has a long-ringed neck with a small head at the top. The helmet portions of the gbetu masks are typically carved with faces, while the base is carved in random arrangements of geometric motifs. The Sande society is the only known female group in Africa where the women wear masks. Gbetu masks, may appear during the Poro initiation ceremonies, but they do not play a major ceremonial roles like Sande initiations where sowei masks perform important ritual functions. Most African masks, whether they represent males or females, are carved and worn by men. With finely carved, delicate features and elaborate hairstyles, Sande masks represent the epitome of female beauty.
Masked performers, commonly referred to as zogbe or sowei, play a central role in Sande ritual activities. The costumed masker embodies the spirit of Sande, representing the society's principles and ideals.