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African Art

Female Mask (Mwana Pwo or Pwewo)

early 20th century

Wood, fiber, and pigment

10 × 7 3/4 × 8 11/16 in. (25.4 × 19.7 × 22 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James M. Osborn for the Linton Collection of African Art
Mwana Pwo, or Pwewo, is one of the most important characters in a group of masks called makishi, which represent the spirits of deceased individuals. The Mwana Pwo mask is conceived as an ideal female role model–a beautiful woman who speaks gracefully and acts with gentle manners. These masks were created and performed by men in conjunction with male initiation.
or Democratic Republic of the Congo
On view
20th century

Dr. Ralph Linton, Sterling Professor of Anthropology at Yale, unknown date–1953
Mr. and Mrs. James M. Osborn donated to Yale University Art Gallery for the Linton Collection of African Art in 1954


Susan B. Matheson, Art for Yale: A History of the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2001), 162–63, fig. 158.

Robert Farris Thompson, “Icons for the Brave and Generous: Kongo Art at Yale,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2005): 81–82, fig. 1.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.