Sowo Wui dance mask
This is not a free-standing, motionless artwork. Learning to look at a sowo wui requires imagining it in dance. Leaders of the Sande Society, a women’s social and political organization in Sierra Leone, wear masks like this one to embody the group’s founding deity, Sowo. Each element of this mask has multiple levels of symbolism. The neck rings represent health and wealth. The closed mouth suggests a dignified woman. The prominent ears honor both learning and sexual eroticism. The eyes, the most important body part, stare out from the center of this face, emphasized by stylized eyelids and brows.
-Amanda Gilvin, Assistant Curator, Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley College (Sept. 2016)