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British Museum exhibits Sowei mask spirit of Sierra Leone

The British Museum is exhibiting a Sowei mask. spirit of Sierra Leone in an exhibition on view 14 February 2013 – 28 April 2013.

The mask featured in this display was collected in 1886 by Thomas Joshua Alldridge for the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London, where it represented the exotic ‘otherness’ of African culture and belief systems. The mask’s design is unusual in that it includes a top hat. This illustrates a two-way exchange of objects and iconography in which imported items of European clothing could be incorporated into traditional practices as symbols of power and prestige.

This display explores the cultural interaction that influenced the mask’s form and examines the ubiquity of sowei masks in museums around the world.

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