African Art
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Female Ancestral Mask (Ndoli Jowi/Nòwo)

early to mid-20th century

Wood, raffia, and cowrie shell or porcelain

Mask: 14 x 7 x 10 in. (35.56 x 17.78 x 25.4 cm) Mask with Raffia, roughly: 22 x 9 x 12 in. (55.88 x 22.86 x 30.48 cm)
Bequest of William Siegmann
2016.119.5
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.
Culture: 
Mende or Sherbro, Sande association
Period: 
20th century
Classification: 
Masks
Geography: 
Country Sierra Leone
Status: 
On view
Provenance: 

Possibly bought by Siegmann in Liberia or Sierra Leone before 1986
Bequest of William Siegmann to Yale University Art Gallery, 2016

Bibliography: 

“Acquisitions July 1, 2016–June 30, 2017,” https://artgallery.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/bulletin/Pub-Bull-acquisitions-2017.pdf (accessed December 1, 2017).

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.