Female Face Mask (Mwana Pwo)

A work made of wood, fiber, beads, and pigment.

Image actions

  • A work made of wood, fiber, beads, and pigment.

Date:

Late 19th/early 20th century

Artist:

Chokwe
Angola or Democratic Republic of the Congo
Central Africa

About this artwork

Performed during initiation ceremonies for young men, this mask portrays Mwana Pwo, an archetypal female ancestor, and symbolizes fecundity and the prominent role of women in a matrilineal society. Men wear such masks along with tightly fitting bodysuits of knotted fibers and attached breasts made of wood. A Mwana Pwo mask may be inspired by a particular woman; although this example is idealized, its naturalistic features suggest the individuality of a portrait. The beaded coiffure and lines of scarification on the chin and cheeks add to its beauty. The cross on the forehead may represent a scar or a pendant that is worn attached to the coiffure.

On View

Arts of Africa, Gallery 137

Artist

Chokwe

Title

Female Face Mask (Mwana Pwo)

Origin

Angola

Date

1875–1925

Medium

Wood, fiber, beads, and pigment

Dimensions

44.5 × 19.3 × 18.7 cm (17 1/2 × 7 5/8 × 7 3/8 in.)

Credit Line

Major Acquisitions Centennial Endowment

Reference Number

1992.731

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

Share

Sign up for our enewsletter to receive updates.

Learn more

Image actions

Share