This janus-faced helmet mask represents a type worn by members of the sande women’s society at funeral services, festive receptions, in the context of adjudication, and especially during and after initiations of new members into the society. The hierarchically ordered Sande, like its male complement, the Poro society, has for centuries been one of the central social institutions in Sierra Leone, in some areas of Guinea, and in parts of Liberia, where it has recently become established among the Bassa as well.
Sande masks always bear feminine features, even when they embody masculine ancestor spirits. With the Mende, whom oral tradition credits with having developed this mask type, it is seen as the personification of a female water spirit.
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