Remarkable in its' simplicity, this is a Mwana Pwo (young maiden - more accurately, young woman) tribally used Mask of the Chokwe people.
Mwana Pwo masks are carved after the most beautiful women in the village - but are only danced in by a man! Corresponding to the male Tshihongo mask, the Mwana Pwo is generally more softly rendered, and there is an absence of the beard. Our example is missing the hairdo.
Finely sculpted, this mask is also wonderfully expressive. The impression of a somewhat shy young woman is portrayed in the slightly downward positioning of the characteristic almond-shaped eyes. Use of whitish pigment on the ears and typically widened mouth further help to create the peaceful & quite animated expression! A small, austere nose, the gracefully arched eyebrows and the carved scarification of parallel lines on the cheekbones are also characteristic of the Chokwe/Tshowke.
CONDITION & PROVENANCE: A very fine mask in excellent condition. Warm patina is lightly encrusted. Shows good use. No repairs. Hairdo is typically missing and reflected in the pricing. Measures 9.5" high. Bandundu, Zaire. A traditional piece, this was acquired by way of a Trade in the early 50's. The mask is believed to be from the first quarter of the 20th century.
Wood, pigment, traces of white paint.
Revealing evidence of ancient contacts with Europeans, Chokwe art is quite refined and serves an enterprising aristocracy. Much has been written on it, but Marie-Louise Bastin has probably done the most in depth and best studies of the Chokwe art.