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Mende Sowei Mask, Sierra Leone, West Africa
Women of the female-only secret society (Sande) of Western Africa used these carved, wooden, masks for initiation ceremonies, marking a woman's transition from child to adulthood. During these important occasions a high-ranking member of the society, known as the ndoli jowei - the sowei who dances would wear the mask on top of her head, with her body covered in a black raffia costume. Accompanied by music, dancing and singing she would appear in public and is viewed as both a physical manifestation of the spirit of the Sande Society and as an embodiment of its powerful medicines. TRURI : 1500.138
© RIC, photographer Mike Searle