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.
- Female Face Mask (Mwana Pwo)
- Wood, fiber, beads, and pigment
- 44.5 × 19.3 × 18.7 cm (17 1/2 × 7 5/8 × 7 3/8 in.)
- Major Acquisitions Centennial Endowment