TITLE: Chokwe Mwana Pwo
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Congo, Dem. Rep. of
DESCRIPTION: Mwana Pwo (Young Woman) Mask
CEREMONY: Entertainment; Spirit Invocation
AGE: ca. late 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: cotton netting
The populous Chokwe people of Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Zambia are known as some of the most skilled wood carvers in Africa. They resisted colonization far longer than most peoples of the region, despite repeated incursions by the Portuguese and other Europeans.
The Chokwe use masks in many contexts. The mwana pwo (young woman) mask invokes the spirit of a female ancestor in her most beautiful youth. The dark skin, decorative forehead and cheek scars, high forehead, narrow nose, and filed teeth represent the idealized Chokwe female. The mwana pwo is mostly danced for purposes for entertainment at festivals, but it is thought to increase the fertility of the women who attend.