The Mende ethnic group is located in a subtropical area covered with forests, meadows and wooded savannah, between Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. This people, who live mainly on agriculture, is divided into two main societies: the Poro, composed of men, and the Sande, composed of women. The majority of Mende’s art is associated with the concepts of birth and healing. The Mende believe in the lord Ngewo, creator of the universe, who is assisted by the spirits of the ancestors. Their masks, used during religious ceremonies, are made to be aesthetically pleasing to the spirits. In particular, the Mende Bundu Sowei helmet, associated to the Sande society, is the only one used by women of all Africa. These masks are usually used by women during the celebrations of fertility, funeral ceremonies and initiation festivities to become part of the Sande company.
Mende Bundu Sowei mask helmet
Mende Bundu Sowei mask helmet of the Mende ethnic group, which reflects the aesthetic characteristics of the indigenous women. This Mende Bundu Sowei helmet, which was worn only by women, presents the main lines of the artworks of this people (narrowed and elongated eyes, delicate lips, tiny nose, expanse forehead). This Mende Bundu Sowei helmet, having perfect volumetric proportions and an impressive symmetry, is also enhanced by the colored lines on the neck; these lines, along with the imperious hairstyle, constitute the surplus value of this artwork. When this Mende Bundu Sowei helmet was worn during ceremonies, it was decorated at the base of the neck by thick brushwood, which served as a dress to the woman who wore the mask.