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, Pwo
Object Name:
Mask, Ritual, Pwo
Other Name:
Mask, Dance, Female
Place of Origin:
Chokwe Style, Africa
Aboriginal Indigenous Art.
H = 9"
W = 9"
D = 13"

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.

New information 4/28/16
During ceremonies the dancers wearing the pwo would spread their hand out to bless others with fertility.
Oval—shaped face with coffeebean eyes in white orbits, wedge—shaped nose, scarification on cheeks, forehead and chin; diamond—shaped open mouth with zigzag white teeth, white in crescent—shaped ears, raffia hair attached to top of mask.
Finley Collection
Wood W/Paint and Raffia
Ritually Used
Art Department, Missouri Southern State University
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Front ViewFront View
Right Side ViewRight Side View
Left Side ViewLeft Side View
Rear ViewRear View