Female Ancestral Mask (Ndoli Jowi/Nòwo)

early to mid-20th century

African Art

This type of mask is the only known mask commissioned and danced by females in Africa. It belongs to the powerful Sande association to which all Mende women are initiated. Sande influences the lives of women and acts on their behalf within society. The helmet mask is worn by leaders of the women's association during the initiation of girls into adulthood. It appears at educational sessions during initiation and at ceremonies of the final "coming out." The unusual depiction of three pigs on the top of the mask could have been a deliberate choice by the artist either to make the mask distinctive or at the request of the patron.


Wood, raffia, and cowrie shell or porcelain


Mask: 14 × 7 × 10 in. (35.56 × 17.78 × 25.4 cm)
Mask with Raffia, roughly: 22 × 9 × 12 in. (55.88 × 22.86 × 30.48 cm)

Credit Line

Bequest of William Siegmann

Accession Number



20th century


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 records is ongoing.



Possibly bought by Siegmann in Liberia or Sierra Leone before 1986
Bequest of William Siegmann to Yale University Art Gallery, 2016
  • "Acquisitions July 1, 2016–June 30, 2017," Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (December 1, 2017), 5
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

ceremonial objects, masks (costume)



Technical metadata and APIs


Open in Mirador

View IIIF manifest

The International Image Interoperability Framework, or IIIF, is an open standard for delivering high-quality, attributed digital objects online at scale. Visit iiif.io to learn more

Linked Art

API response for this object

Linked Art is a Community working together to create a shared Model based on Linked Open Data to describe Art.