Mende, Sierra Leone

Sande Society Helmet Mask

20th century


Gift of Donna and Thomas Brumfield, Jr. in honor of Michael Milkovich


This type of helmet mask would have been worn during special occasions by Mende women within their town’s Sande society, which is entirely female. It represents the protective river spirit Sowei, and is the only known African wooden masks worn by women. The fine features and high forehead signify concepts of status and ideal beauty in Mende culture.

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