Art of Africa
Sowei mask: Spirit of Sierra Leone
Unique to the region around Sierra Leone, sowei masks are worn by senior members of the all-female Sande Society during rite-of-passage ceremonies that signify a girl's transition to adulthood.
Each mask has an individual personality and is given a name which is revealed in a dream. For many years the name of this mask was lost. However, in a special ceremony in January 2013 members of the Sierra Leonean diaspora community in London gave the mask a new name: Gbavo, meaning ‘crowd-puller’ or ‘to attract people’s attention’. The newly-named mask was then formally re-presented to the British Museum. © Trustees of the British Museum. Created by British Museum.
Want to join the conversation?
- Why is the representative crying ?(2 votes)
- She understands the importance of what she has just become a part of, and is overcome by emotion because of this. At least that's how I would feel and react.(7 votes)
- At3:25the woman throwing the shells is holding a glass of water. Does the water mean anything in the ceremony?(2 votes)
- Water has a symbol in many cultures because it can drive away evil. For Catholics, it is holy water. These people probably have it to drive away evil as well.(5 votes)
- What does "Gbavo" mean in their language ?(1 vote)
- "Gbavo" means "crowd-puller" or "to attract people's attention." (See the description under the video.)(6 votes)
- What is the name of the instrument that the woman on the left is playing at4:30?(2 votes)
- I believe that that is a variation of a rainmaker. (Possibly a type solely used for very special occasions. )(2 votes)
- why do they wear a special clothes and what does it meen(2 votes)
- The special clothes are for the ceremony and white represents purity.(1 vote)
- Does anyone know what language they were speaking?(2 votes)
- Possibly Mende or Temne, Sierra Leone speaks many different languages. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_Sierra_Leone)(1 vote)
- why do they have white dots all over them?(1 vote)
- Most likely it is a part of the way they have to present themselves to the spirit in the mask. Can't tel for sure though.(1 vote)
- why did they dance around the vase? aren't they suppose to be dancing around a face mask?(1 vote)
- So in more colonial times, would the process would have been the same, or would they have been slaughtered to the death while the mask was taken? I'm going to assume that's how it was back in those times, no?(1 vote)
- What language are the Sande Society's women speaking?(1 vote)
- Possibly Mende or Temne? Sierra Leone has 25 languages. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_Sierra_Leone)(1 vote)