Sierra Leone, Liberia.
22″ Tall (55.9 cm) Tall
24 Collection – Florida, USA.
A small tribe to the east of the Mende, the Vai live along the coast of Sierra Leone and into neighboring Liberia. Just like the Mende, the Vai have important woman’s Sande and Bundu associations.
Men carve helmet masks called Sowei on behalf of the women of the Sande society that are used during masquerades during the initiation ceremonies held for new members into the association. Where the Vai differ from the Mende is, while the Mende only carve female helmet masks (includes a face in the lower part f the helmet), the Vai carve female as well as male masks (lower part of the helmet is geometrically carved, but has no face in it).
This particular Vai mask is of the male variety. The rinds on the lower part of the mask are a sign of prosperity and health, surmounted by geometric patterns.
On top of this, at the centre, is a high crest made of six ‘neck rings’ carrying a small head with finely crafted plaited coiffure.