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The Dancing "Sowei:" Performing Beauty in Sierra Leone

The Dancing "Sowei:" Performing Beauty in Sierra Leone

March 21, 2018–March 2, 2019

Sowei mask

Gola or Mende artist (Sande Society, Sierra Leone), Helmet Mask (sowei or ndoli jowei), 1920s-1930s. Wood, leopard tooth, kaolin, and fiber. Gift from the collection of Marc and Ruth Franklin, 2003.121

This exhibition focuses on one spectacular work in the Cantor’s collection—a sowei mask, used by the women-only Sande Society that is unique to Sierra Leone. Used in dance by senior women of the society, the sowei mask symbolizes knowledge of feminine grace and is part of a young girl’s initiation into adulthood. Thus, for many women of the region, beauty is literally performed into existence through ndoli jowei (the dancing sowei or the sowei mask in performance). Take an in-depth look at a sowei’s aesthetic expressions of elegance, from its serene gaze of inner spirituality to the corpulent neck rolls that signify health and wealth—a beauty as defined and danced by women. 

This exhibition is organized by the Cantor Arts Center. We gratefully acknowledge support from the C. Diane Christensen Fund for African Art and the Phyllis Wattis Program Fund.

Museum Hours

Monday: 11AM–5PM
Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday: 11AM–5PM
Thursday: 11AM–8PM
Friday-Sunday: 11AM–5PM

Holiday Hours

The Museum is OPEN, Labor Day, Monday, September 3 from 11AM–5PM, and parking is free.
 
The Rodin Sculpture Garden and campus sculptures are always open to visitors.

Map and Directions

The Cantor Arts Center is located at the intersection of Museum Way and Lomita Drive in the heart of the arts district on the Stanford campus. The Cantor faces the Bing Concert Hall across Palm Drive, northwest of The Oval and the Main Quad.

328 Lomita Drive at Museum Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5060

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Parking

Parking is limited. Visitor parking is available on Lomita Drive and in a nearby parking structure at Roth Way and Campus Drive. On weekdays until 4PM visitors may use marked, metered spots. On weekdays after 4PM and all day on weekends, visitor parking is free and visitors may also use A and C permit spaces.

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