Mende Bundu Society Mask (sowei)
This mask’s intricately sculpted hairstyle is comprised of twelve vertical tresses covering the head, plus two smaller ones over the forehead. It has a delicately carved face, three folds representing rolls of fat on the neck (considered a sign of health and attractiveness by the Mende), and striations creating eyebrows. A conical form atop the head may represent a horn used as sebe
(sebbeh), the Mende term for charms or amulets. There is extensive performance use patina all over the mask, red vegetable dye has been applied to the lower lip, and black raffia is attached to the base through carved holes along its rim.
All of the Sowei/Bundu Masks in this exhibition were collected and donated to our museum by Dr. Pascal J. Imperato and Eleanor M. Imperato.