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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Mask (Sowei )

Photo: Paul Macapia

Mask (Sowei )

20th century

Femininity is given ominous force in Sowei masks. Women who are taught in a "university of the forest" wear them to illustrate their ideals. Precise hairstyles are a sign of orderly demeanor. Broad foreheads indicate the wearer has entered an expansive phase of life in which "the brow is the parlor by which you enter into a relationship with another person." Closed mouths signal that these women will not talk maliciously.

Wood, raffia, metal
14 1/2 x 22 in. (36.83 x 55.88 cm)
Overall h.: 30 in.
Mary Arrington Small Estate Acquisition Fund
Photo: Paul Macapia
Now on view at the Seattle Art Museum


Exhibition HistorySeattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Art from Africa: Long Steps Never Broke a Back, February 7, 2002-April 30, 2006

Seattle, Wash., Seattle Art Museum, Disguise: Masks and Global African Art, June 18–Sept. 7, 2015 (Los Angeles, Calif., UCLA, Fowler Museum of Cultural History, Oct. 18, 2015–Mar. 13, 2016; Brooklyn, N.Y., Brooklyn Museum, Apr. 29–Sept. 18, 2016).

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, "Lessons from the Institute of Empathy," (03/31/2018-ongoing), DT 450P

Published ReferencesMcClusky, Pamela, Art from Africa: Long Steps Never Broke A Back, Seattle Art Museum, 2002, pg. 201

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

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