Likishi Dance Costume Shirt and Head Cover with Pwo Mask
Arts of Africa
On View: African Storage Annex, East Gallery, 1st Floor
This complete dance costume shows how masks are normally one part of a larger ensemble. The mask is sewn directly onto the costume of looped bark and fiber, which fits tightly over the body of the dancer. Seedpod rattles and metal bells added a musical aspect to the performance.
Although they are danced by Luvale men, mwana pwevo masks depict women. In order to own and perform with a mask, a man had to symbolically marry it by paying the carver a copper ring as a bride price. In so doing, the dancer made a commitment to honor and care for the spirit represented by the mask. In return, the dancer was able to earn his livelihood performing at local festivals.
Fiber, wood, seedpods, hide, metal
late 19th or early 20th century
40 1/2 x 8 1/2 in. (102.9 x 21.6 cm) (show scale)
Museum Collection Fund
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Luvale. Likishi Dance Costume Shirt and Head Cover with Pwo Mask, late 19th or early 20th century. Fiber, wood, seedpods, hide, metal, 40 1/2 x 8 1/2 in. (102.9 x 21.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Collection Fund, 36.548. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 36.548_36.549_36.550a-b_36.551a-b_36.552_36.553_front_installation_edited_SL1.jpg)
group, 36.548_36.549_36.550a-b_36.551a-b_36.552_36.553_front_installation_edited_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2011
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Dance costume consisting of carved wooden mask, painted a light brown with small mouth lines, sharp white teeth, and slit eyes. A headdress-turban painted black is sewn to the costume, made of coiled fiber, and forms a tasseled fringe at the rear. A body covering of netted fiber dyed with dark and light brown is woven into stripes against a natural yellow ground. Carved wooden nipples are sewn to the front of the costume. Figure stands about 5' 5". CONDITION: The costume had been fitted over a mannequin and displayed for many years in the African Gallery, 1st floor of museum, and is much frayed from handling by visitiors and dirty from exposure. Hands have suffered the most damage, in their extended position.
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