Sowei Mask: Spirit of Sierra Leone

4 February 2013

Sowei Mask: Spirit of Sierra Leone exhibition

Paul Basu has curated an exhibition with Julie Hudson of the British Museum’s Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas which will open at the museum on 14 February.

The display entitled 'Sowei Mask: Spirit of Sierra Leone' will run until 28 April 2013 and admission is free. Sowei masks – unique to the region around Sierra Leone – are worn by senior members of the all-female Sande Society during rite-of-passage ceremonies that signify a girl’s transition to adulthood.

The exhibition explores the cultural interaction that influenced the mask’s form and examines the ubiquity of sowei masks in museums around the world and is an indirect output of Paul's AHRC-funded project on Reanimating Cultural Heritage. This multidisciplinary project is concerned with innovating 'digital curatorship' in relation to Sierra Leonean collections dispersed in the global museumscape. As part of this initiative, Paul has been working closely with Sierra Leonean communities in London.

Sowei Mask: Spirit of Sierra Leone exhibition

A number of related events are being held including a special performance in the British Museum Great Court on 16 February of the ndoli jowei masquerade, with speeches from the Sierra Leonean High Commissioner and other dignitaries to mark the opening of the exhibition.

There will also be a series of gallery talks, a related academic symposium, and a special event on 27 April, organised with the Sierra Leone High Commission, to mark the closing of the exhibition and to celebrate Sierra Leone’s independence day.