The Chokwe of Angola use a beautiful mask called Mwana pwo in their initiation ceremonies known as mukanda. Although they are exclusively worn by men, Mwana pwo masks represent female ancestors and emphasize the features that are most admired in young women. The masks are worn with a tightly knit body suit, which includes false breasts and a bustlelike fringe worn over the hips. The dance mimics the graceful gestures of women and transmits fertility to the male spectators.
Artist Chokwe, African
  • Mask (Mwana pwo)
Date early 19th century
Medium carved wood with hemp
Dimensions Overall: 8 3/4 × 8 1/2 × 7 5/8 inches (22.2 × 21.6 × 19.4 cm)
Including base (mount): 13 × 5 1/2 × 5 1/2 inches (33 × 14 × 14 cm)
Credit Line Bequest of W. Hawkins Ferry
Accession Number 1988.193
Department Africa, Oceania & Indigenous Americas
On View African: Masquerades, Level 1 (see map)
W. Hawkins Ferry (Detroit, Michigan, USA);
1989-present, bequest to the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
African Masterworks In The Detroit Institute of Arts. Washington and London: The Detroit Institute of Arts and Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995, cat. no. 67.

Bulletin of the DIA 65, no. 2/3, 1989, p. 30, fig. 23, (ill).