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ID number:  BIRRC-D0254
Institution:  Research and Cultural Collections
Named collection:  Danford Collection of West African Art and Artefacts
Artist / Maker:  Unknown
Title / Object name:  Ceremonial 'poro' mask
Object type:  Mask
Place made:  Sierra Leone
Culture:  Mende
Date made:  1950s
Materials:  Cloth, wood, tin, mirrors and wool
Measurements:  50 cm
BIRRC-D0254.jpg

This mask has been made from woven striped cloth on a wooden framework and a biscuit tin, with four hanging strips of cloth beneath it. It has been decorated with small mirrors and wool and wood loops. 'Poro' is the male society to which Mende men belong, with the female alternative being 'Sande'. The Mende society is one of the largest in Sierra Leone. These societies maintain the continuation of traditional ritual beliefs within their society. The Poro society is a secret one where the men speak a secret language known only to each other. Initiates are inducted at 20 and trained for seven years. Part of this training involves dancing with masks such as the one displayed here. This mask was lent to the Danford Collection by J.Danford in 1969 and was purchased in 1975.

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