Mwana Pwo Mask, about 1910
wood, raffia, beads
The Mwana Pwo (young woman) mask represents the female ancestor of the Chokwe people. It embodies ideal feminine beauty and records traditional Chokwe facial scarification patterns.
The Mwana Pwo mask is always worn by a man who is disguised as a woman with a bodysuit, false breasts, and a cotton skirt. In dances performed for the ruler and the entire community, Mwana Pwo is sometimes accompanied by the male ancestor mask, Cihongo. Cihongo symbolizes authority and wealth; Mwana Pwo symbolizes generative power. During the performance, the Mwana Pwo dancer mimics and exaggerates the mannerisms of young Chokwe women.