A Fine Female (Pwo) Mask
Chokwe Peoples, Angola
H: (with base) 19 in, w: 9 in, D: 8 in.
Circa: Late-Early 20th century
Materials: wood, twine, beads, leather
This work is a perfect example of Pwo, a classic Chokwe mask that honors founding female ancestors. It is significant to note that Chokwe trace their descendants through their mothers’ lines. Pwo’s joint performance with her male counterpart, Cihongo, brings fertility and prosperity to a community.
The inscripted motifs on the mask’s forehead and cheeks, with red beads hanging in the center of her head, coupled with very elaborate hair braids with multi-colored glass beads, are classic graphic designs that aesthetically enhance a woman’s beauty in past generations and were signs of ethnic identity that mark the completion of initiations of the young girls into womanhood.