Collection

Sande Helmet Mask

Sande Helmet Mask

Bassa, Liberia.
Early 20th Century,
Wood, Applied Metal Decoration, 14" x 11".

This type of mask is worn by the elders of the Sande women's society at funerals, festive receptions, and other important social gatherings. It is especially important during initiation ceremonies, welcoming new female members as they transition from youth into womanhood. This secret society teaches the young women to become responsible adults and champions women's social and political interests among the village.

The Sande masks always have feminine features, showing idealized beauty in specific characteristics that are symbolic: a full, wide forehead to represent wisdom, down-cast eyes that showcase their modesty and proper sexual comportment, and traditional neck ring jewelry, which symbolizes prosperity. It is the only African mask known to be worn by women, highlighting the prominent social position of women in this culture.

The Bassa, numbering just under 300,000 members, live in present-day Liberia.

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Sande Helmet Mask

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