Inventory Number: 100965 (AF578)
The Bundu mask, from the Mende people in Sierra Leone, is a very important artifact because it is one of the few examples of a complete costume in the Vatican Museums’ collection. The Sande female society, a women’s association in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, use this mask during its most solemn occasions, including the initiation ceremony that welcomes girls to adulthood. On this occasion, the masks are worn by women with some rank in society to welcome the younger women at the end of their three-month seclusion in the forest. The long costume with the mask serves to cover the entire body.
The mask represents the spirit of fertility and is considered the incarnation of feminine waters. The most distinguishing features of the mask are the hairstyle and the presence of rings around the neck, returning not only to the aesthetic values but also to philosophic and religious concepts. The costume consists of a carved wooden mask and a costume of fabric coated fibers. Currently the Ethnological Museum is under renovation, but it is expected that this piece will return on display in the near future.