Mask (mwana pwo)

20th century
Artist Unidentified

Object Place: Angola


19.05 cm (7 1/2 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Wood, fiber, metal, and pigment

Not On View


Africa and Oceania



This female mask, called mwana pwo, was identified with beauty, fertility, and other qualities. Softly modeled with an open mouth, slit eyes in oval sockets, and delicate scarification, the mask’s male dancer would have worn a costume of a skirt, feathers, and false breasts. The mask is sometimes a dialogue with a male mask, called cihongo, which is emblematic of strength and wealth. The pair appears in itinerant performances that travel from village to village.


Said to have belonged to Mr. Quintin, a Belgian territorial agent. October 22, 1986, sold by Marc Leo Felix (dealer), Brussels, to William and Bertha Teel, Marblehead, MA; 1996, partial gift of William and Bertha Teel to the MFA; 2014, acquired fully with the bequest of William Teel to the MFA. (Accession Dates: December 18, 1996 and February 26, 2014)

Credit Line

Gift of William E. and Bertha L. Teel