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Mask (Mwana Pwo)

Arts of Africa

Mwana pwo (young woman) masks, danced by Chokwe men at festivals primarily for entertainment, are said to bestow increased fertility on the spectators. The masks represent female ancestors depicted as beautiful young women, with high foreheads, balanced features, filed teeth, and scarification. The scarification marks, which may duplicate those of the actual woman whose beauty inspired the carver, include the cingelyengelye design on the forehead. This cruciform design was probably derived from tin pendants traded into the Chokwe region by Portuguese voyagers as early as the seventeenth century.
  • Place Made: Bachon region, Angola
  • DATES 19th century
    DIMENSIONS 7 1/2 x 3 1/8 x 5 1/2 in. (19.1 x 8 x 14 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John McDonald
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION The eyes are bean-shaped with slit openings and are enclosed in flat raised circles formed by brown and cheek. Mouth is raised, with open flat lips exposing pointed teeth. The ears are small, extended and are drilled inside. An incised bar pattern appears on cheeks and forehead. A single drill hole at top rim of mask. Condition: good. Native repair (sewn crack) top of head and fron of right ear.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Chokwe. Mask (Mwana Pwo), 19th century. Wood, 7 1/2 x 3 1/8 x 5 1/2 in. (19.1 x 8 x 14 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John McDonald, 69.168.2. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 69.168.2_PS2.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 69.168.2_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2007
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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