Mende Sande Society Helmet Headdress (sowei)
A black dye made by grinding njui and/or njekoi leaves in a pestle and mortar and then boiling them with water for several days had been applied over the years and resulted in attributing this helmet headdress its distinct luster. The hairstyle is covered with vertically oriented rows of palm leaf patterns that is surmounted by four spherical forms, the largest resting atop the center of the head. The upper portion of the forehead was once rimmed with a row of six Sierra Leonean coins, only one of which remains on the left. The lips are colored pink, representing the use of cross-cultural borrowing applied to an old mask. Two parallel vertical scarifications (ngaya maki) are present beneath each eye.
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.