Initiation Society Mask

Unidentified Mende maker

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mid-20th century

Wood

Overall: 15 3/16 × 8 13/16 × 9 15/16 in. (38.5 × 22.4 × 25.3 cm)

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth: Gift of Burton Elliott, Class of 1948

992.42.29086

Geography

Place Made: Sierra Leone, Western Africa, Africa

Period

20th century

Object Name

Ceremonial Artifact: Mask

Research Area

Africa

Not on view

Label

The elaborate hairstyle, large forehead, ringed neck, narrow eyes, glossy black color, and symmetry of this helmet mask (Sowei) evoke an idealized version of Mende feminine beauty. It would be worn by senior members of the Sande society in their masquerades. Sande societies are all-women secret organizations that teach girls the communal wisdom on childcare, homemaking, beauty, arts, healing, and ethics. The mask’s aesthetics, revered by Mende women, reflect the significance of beauty, serenity, and harmony in Mende philosophy.

From the 2023 exhibition Homecoming: Domesticity and Kinship in Global African Art, curated by Alexandra Thomas, Curatorial Research Associate

Course History

ARTH 16, ANTH 50, Australian Aborigional Art, Howard Morphy, Fall 2012

SART 65, Architecture I, Zenovia Toloudi, Spring 2015

First Year Student Enrichment Program – Cultures, Identities and Belongings, Colleen Lannon, Summer 2023

First Year Student Enrichment Program - Cultures, Identities and Belongings, Mokhtar Bouba, Summer 2023

Philosophy 1.11, Art: True, Beautiful, Nasty, John Kulvicki, Summer 2023

Writing 2.05, Why Write, Anyway?, Erkki Mackey, Fall 2023

Writing 5.24, Photographic Representations, Amanda Wetsel, Fall 2023

Writing 5.25, Photographic Representations, Amanda Wetsel, Fall 2023

Anthropology 31.01, Women's Gender, and Sexuality Studies 36.01, Gender in Cross Cultural Perspectives, Sabrina Billings, Fall 2023

Anthropology 55.01, Anthropology of Global Health, Anne Sosin, Fall 2023

Art History 89.06, Senior Seminar: Theory and Method, Adedoyin Teriba, Fall 2023

Creative Writing 10.02, Writing and Reading Fiction, Katherine Crouch, Fall 2023

Geography 31.01, Postcolonial Geographies, Erin Collins, Fall 2023

Exhibition History

Anthropology of Religion, Harrington Gallery Teaching Exhibition, Anthropology 48, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, March 30-May 2, 2004.

Basis for Design: Visual Problem Solving, Harrington Gallery Teaching Exhibition, Studio Art 10, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, March 31-April 26, 1998.

Black Womanhood: Images, Icons, and Ideologies of the African Body, Friends Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, April 1-August 10, 2008; Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts, September 10-December 10, 2008; San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, California, January 21-April 26, 2009.

Correspondences: African Sculpture at the Hood Museum of Art, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, October 12, 1996-March 2, 1997.

Homecoming: Domesticity and Kinship in Global African Art, Harteveldt Family Gallery, Owen Robertson Cheatham Gallery, and Northeast Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth, Hanover, New Hampshire, July 22, 2023–May 25, 2024.

Works from the Continent of Africa, Ivan Albright Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, January 26, 2019-March 15, 2020.

Publication History

Barbara Thompson, Black Womanhood: Images, Icons, and Ideologies of the African Body, Seattle: University of Washington Press [Hanover: Trustees of Dartmouth College], 2008, p. 95, plate 1.

This record is part of an active database that includes information from historic documentation that may not have been recently reviewed. Information may be inaccurate or incomplete. We also acknowledge some language and imagery may be offensive, violent, or discriminatory. These records reflect the institution’s history or the views of artists or scholars, past and present. Our collections research is ongoing.

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