MSSU African Art Exibit : The MSSU African Art collection features a variety of authentic works of art from various tribes located throughout Central Africa. The objects in the collection range from mundane day to day grooming tools to ritualistic masks and statues.
Chokwe, Female Dance Mask
Object Name:
Mask, Ritual, Pwo
Other Name:
Mask, Dance, Female
Place of Origin:
Chokwe Style, Angola, Africa
Aboriginal Indigenous Art.
H = 16"
W = 9"
D = 11"

While in former times they probably played important roles in religious beliefs and institutional practices, many other Chokwe masks have come to be used primarily for entertainment. Itinerant actors wearing these masks travel from village to village, living on gifts received at performances. Most masks are carved of wood. The most popular and best—known entertainment masks are chihongo, spirit of wealth, and pwo, his consort. Gaunt features, sunken cheeks, and jutting beard of an elder characterize a chihongo mask. Chihongo was formerly worn only by a chief or by one of his sons as they traveled through their realm exacting tribute in exchange for the protection that the spirit masks gave. While chihongo brings prosperity, his female counterpart, pwo, is an archetype of womanhood, an ancestral female personage who encourages fertility. As an ancestor, she is envisioned as an elderly woman. The eyes closed to narrow slits evoke those of a deceased person. The facial decoration on the surface are considered female. Recently pwo has become known as mwana pwo, a young woman. It represents young women who undergone initiation and are ready for marriage.
Oval—shaped face with coffeebean slit eyes in concave orbits. Wedge—shaped nose with circular nostrils, scarification on cheeks and forehead. Crescent—shaped slightly open mouth with zigzag teeth. Cloth or possibly animal hair attached to top of mask, with cowrie shells and beads attached to top of front head area. Raffia netting along neck for holding on head. Dark brown patina over entire facial area.
Guy Mace Collection, (Turblex Company)
Wood W/Paint, Shells, Beads and Raffia or Hair
Ritually Used
Carving / Weaving
Art Department, Missouri Southern State University
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Front ViewFront View
Front View, Close-UpFront View, Close-Up
Right Side ViewRight Side View
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Left Side ViewLeft Side View
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Rear ViewRear View
Rear View - 2Rear View - 2