This dramatic and impressive wooden ceremonial mask is from the Chokwe peoples, the most famous sculptors of their region in Africa. Carved from a single piece of wood, the mask represents the head of a Mwana-Pwo (female) spirit ancestor. Her forehead and cheeks are scarified, tattooed marks that represent ideal beauty to the Chokwe. Her eyes have narrowed to slits, indicating she is dead and there is a tear carved out under her right eye, another Chokwe mask tradition. Broad lips, protruding carved ears and a long nose with flared nostrils complete her exaggerated features. Her hair is made of black cloth strips, knotted at the ends. The cloth strips are threaded through tubular bamboo beads stained black. They are attached at the back of the head through holes in a woven cap that is made of a tan colored natural fiber, like jute or coir.
This mask is 13 1/4 inches tall, 9 inches across the ears and projects 9 inches to the top of her domed forehead. It is heavy for its size at 2 3/4 pounds. The mask has definitely been used but is intact and in very good condition, with just normal wear and some small fraying of the "hair" and the fibers. Please note that authentic masks like this one were often given a coat of natural resin that has a smoky odor. When unpacked, it will be at its most noticeable, but will soon dissipate. This mask is an outstanding example of mid-century African art.