Mask (mwana pwo)

Mask (mwana pwo)

c. 1930s

Wood, reeds, plant fiber, burlap, natural fiber (possibly cotton), and colorant

Overall: 21.6 cm (8 1/2 in.)

Gift of Katherine C. White 1978.27



Emotional well-being and stability are valued in many African cultures and these qualities are mirrored in the Mwana Pwo Face Mask. It embodies ideal cultural standards of feminine beauty (beauty marks, elaborate hairstyle, fertility, and good character) and represents a distinguished female ancestor among Chokwe communities of southwestern Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo. The mask would have been danced by an itinerant male performer wearing a body suit and role-playing as a woman; women do not typically wear masks in most African societies.

See also

Contact us

The information about this object, including provenance information, is based on historic information and may not be currently accurate or complete. Research on objects is an ongoing process, but the information about this object may not reflect the most current information available to CMA. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email

To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.

Request a digital file from Image Services that is not available through CC0, a detail image, or any image with a color bar. If you have questions about requesting an image, please email