Sowei mask

Sowei Mask (ndoli jowei) by the Master of Nguabu

The Mende term ndoli jowei means "expert in dance" and is the term used for the individual who performs with the principal mask of the women's society known as the sande. This type of mask is more frequently, and less accurately, known as a "Sande" or "Bundu" mask.
Unfortunately, the name of the carver iof this particular mask is not known. Undoubtedly he was commissioned by the sande in many different towns and it is not certain where he actually lived. Nevertheless, he was clearly a prolific and masterful carver. Consequently, at least until his name or the name of the town in which he lived can be identified this author has chosen to identify him as the "Master of Nguabu".
The corpus of works by this artist numbers well over two dozen pieces including two examples that entered the British Museum collections in 1943. Others at the Fowler Museum originally came from the Welcome Collection and were probably collected at about the same period. Masks by the Nguabu Master were still being used well into the 1970's. It seems likely that this artist was active during the 1920's to the 1940's.

- Private collection

- d’Azevedo, W. L., 1973, Mask, Makers and Myth in Western Liberia, Oxford: Oxford University Press
- Boone, S. A., 1986, Radiance from the Waters: Ideals of Feminine Beauty in Mende Art. New Haven and London: Yale University Press
- Phillips, R. B., 1995, Representing Woman: Sande Masquerades of the Mende of Sierra Leone. Los Angeles: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History