Chokwe People, Angola/NW Zambia/SW DR Congo
The Mwana Pwo mask honors tribal female ancestors, especially significant as the Chokwe people are matrilineal. The mask represents the perfect female, and is believed to spread fertility and abundance. The forehead inscription is said to represent Chokwe cosmology, while the marks on the cheeks are tears. Pwo masks are often danced during ceremonies that initiate boys into adulthood, marking the point of dissolution of bonds of intimacy between mothers and sons, a moment of pride and sorrow for Chokwe women. Sculptors take their inspiration from the traits of women renowned for their beauty. The hairstyles and tattoos vary from one mask to another, each mask being a virtual portrait. Pwo can also be the secret portrait of a loved one or a representations of the mask carver’s ancestor. On the older masks, scarification marks are always present, beautiful and regular just like the teeth filed down to points which were, in the past, a sign of beauty.
Dimensions: 19 X 10.5 X 5 inches