“Bundu – Sowei headpieces of the Sande Society of West Africa” is the title of this exceptional exhibition on view until the 29th of June, 2012, at the QCC Art Gallery of the City University of New York.
The Bundu or Sande Society is a pan-African Association of women found among several West African groups in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. It educates and initiates young girls so as to enable them to assume their place in an adult society as wives and mothers and as social, economic, and political leaders. Entry into this society confers not only political power, but also introduces members to the association’s role in promoting wellness and treating disease. As a result, it is also a medicine society that employs both spiritual and physical therapies to help those in need, especially women and children.
The headpieces of the Sande Society, also known as sowei helmet masks, are unique in sub-Sahara Africa in that they are the only ones worn by women. This exhibition presents sixty sculptures that display the wonderful stylistic diversity of these masks among the Bassa, Gola, Mende, and Vai peoples of Africa.
The book that accompanies the exhibition is an outstanding ethnographic contribution to the understanding of this society and its sculptural expressions. This volume is authored by two Africanist scholars, Gavin H. Imperato and Pascal James Imperato, both with extensive field research experience in Africa.