Mask (Mwana pwo), early 19th century

  • Chokwe, African

Carved wood with hemp

  • Framed: 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)

Bequest of W. Hawkins Ferry


On View

  • African: Masquerades


Africa, Oceania & Indigenous Americas

  • Triangles (polygons)
  • Chokwe
  • Wood
  • Hemp
  • Lozenge
  • Carved
  • Mask
  • Face (animal or human component)

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.


W. Hawkins Ferry (Detroit, Michigan, USA); 1989-present, bequest to the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)

Published References

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).

Rights Status

Chokwe, African, Mask (Mwana pwo), early 19th century, carved wood with hemp. Detroit Institute of Arts, Bequest of W. Hawkins Ferry, 1988.193.