Work of Art: Sande Society Helmet Mask
Mende peoples
Sierra Leone
Sande Society Helmet Mask
20th century
14 1/8 x 8 3/4 x 9 in. (35.9 x 22.2 x 22.9 cm)
Gift of the James G. Hanes Memorial Fund, 1973

Among the Mende and neighboring groups, the Sande society is responsible for educating girls as they become women. During coming-of-age ceremonies, masqueraders appear in wooden helmet masks and raffia costumes. Though carved by men, the masks are worn and danced by female Sande society members, a rarity in Africa, where masqueraders are customarily male. The mask’s form highlights Mende ideals of feminine beauty.

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