African Art
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery

Sande Society Mask (Ndoli Jowi/Nòwo)

late 19th to mid-20th century


16 3/4 × 9 1/2 × 8 3/4 in. (42.55 × 24.13 × 22.23 cm)
Leonard C. Hanna, Jr., Class of 1913, Fund
Female helmet masks are worn by leaders of the women’s association during the initiation of girls into adulthood. They appear at educational sessions during the initiation period and at ceremonies of the final “coming out.” The mask itself represents an ideal ancestral woman, at the height of youth and beauty. The exquisite braided hairstyle alludes to the cultivation of the female ancestor and of the young women now eligible for marriage. The rings around the neck suggest the ripples of the water through which the ancestor has been brought from the spiritual world into the physical.
Sierra Leone
19th–20th century

William Siegmann, New York, unknown dates
Purchased by Yale University Art Gallery from Bruce Frank in 2011


“Acquisitions,” (accessed December 21, 2012).

Frederick John Lamp, “The Master of the Rainbow Eyes: A Prolific Carver of the Mende of Sierra Leone,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2014): 47–53, 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.