Mende Female Helmet MaskMende Female Helmet MaskMende Female Helmet MaskMende Female Helmet Mask

Mende female helmet mask

Fine and well documented “sowei” helmet mask, probably carved of the bombax or silk-cotton tree, having a slender and tall outline, the face is of triangular form with narrow sharply upturned eyes beneath textured brows, scarification lines cover the cheeks, the tall coiffure is divided in four sections with plaited balls hanging on the corners, and the thick neck ridges surround the neck and rise up along the back of the head. Raffia and cotton fiber fringe are still attached at the rim. Dark brown matte patina, left side weathered, small scattered areas of abrasion. Custom base. See Bonhams page for link to photograph taken in situ by William Fagg, 1959. The entry next to the photo that includes this mask in Fagg’s “African Tribal Images” reads: Seen on the way up from Freetown to Njama, a group of Mende girls have been vigorously “pulling the bush,” as it is called in the local pidgin English. They are the girls who have been lately initiated into the Sande, the principal society for the women.

Nòwo Workshop 54 (according to Frederick Lamp Archive - Yale University Art Gallery); characteristics are V-shaped face, and a narrow four-lobe coiffure; others by the same hand found in the collection of the University of the Witwatersrand (see Anita Nettleton, Hazel Friedman, Sandra Klopper, Elizabeth Schneider, Standard Bank Investment Corp. Ltd, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg Catalogue, Standard Bank Foundation Collection of African Art (1979-1986), University Art Galleries Collection of African Art and Selected Works from the University Ethnological Museum Collection, Johannesburg: University of Witwatersrand, 1986), and the ex-collection of John Dintenfass, New York.

Photographs taken in situ by William Fagg, 1959; courtesy Royal Anthropological Institute, 50 Fitzroy St., London: Mende, Njama Road from Freetown, Sierra Leone

- John MacKenzie
- Frederick Lamp, New Haven, USA
- Bonhams, New York, USA, 2017
- The Amy & Elliot Lawrence Collection, New York.

- William Fagg, “African Tribal Images: The Katherine White Reswick Collection”, Cleveland Museum of Art, 1968, next to fig. 46, photo of mask taken in situ by William Fagg in 1959
- Bonhams, African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art, 23 May 2017, Los Angeles, USA