Helmet mask

20th century, 1950–2000
Artist Unidentified

Object Place: Sierra Leone


Overall: 35.5 x 20 x 25 cm (14 x 7 7/8 x 9 13/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Wood, metal

Not On View


Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art



This helmet mask, representing a woman with an elegant coiffure, crowned by a bird motif, belongs to the paraphernalia of the Sande or Bundu women’s medicine societies. Such societies prepared and educated young girls for womanhood. In the past, Sande and Poro (the complementary men’s association), were important institutions among many peoples in West Africa. Women commissioned these masks and performed with them during masquerades, embodying the society’s female patron spirit. The maskers conveyed the ideals of womanhood: beauty, grace, appropriate behavior, and fecundity.


1960, acquired in Paris by Geneviève McMillan (b. 1922 - d. 2008), Cambridge, MA; 2008, to the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation, Cambridge; 2009, gift of the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation to the MFA. (Accession Date: June 17, 2009)

Credit Line

Gift of Geneviève McMillan in memory of Reba Stewart