The mask is carved wood, not too heavy , but also not the very light weight wood used on more commercial examples. The Artist was commissioned to carve a mask for a Young Girls initiation and apparently took some liberties and created a very unique example. The entire mask is decorated with sea shells and strands of glass beads. Also of note are the two mirrors embedded into the forehead of the mask, to reflect sun light or fire light during the ceremony. The mask measures 17 x 9.5 inches, and will also include a heavy duty display stand. About the culture of this mask: The Sande Society mask, or sowo-wui, is worn by Mende women of Sierra Leone, and has the distinction of being one of the few ritual masks worn by African women. The Sande, or Bundu, Society is a fellowship of women who are responsible for preparing young Mende girls for adulthood, and for their roles as wives, mothers and female community members. At the girls' initiation, which is still practiced into the twentieth century, a society member appears in full costume as Sowo, the water spirit of the Sande Society, and walks with the grace and elegance expected of Mende women. The costumed woman wears a black gown of raffia fibers that conceals her body, and the mask rests over her head on her shoulders. This dark mask "exalts the far-famed beauty of Mende women," and represents the sculpted head of Sowo.The mask itself is a conical helmet that rests on top of the raffia costume, and is described by observers as "truly a glamorous being...the mask joins the community together in the experience of its beauty and allure." The artist, carefully chosen by the Society, carves the face with the attention a woman would give her own appearance. The mask's appearance exemplifies Mende women's physical and moral beauty and cannot fall short of the Mende ideal. The artist coats the mask with palm oil, which gives it the black, lustrous shine. The ideal Mende mask has clearly defined features created by delicate, dainty carving. The neck with its rings of flesh, the face, and the coiffure make up the three divisions of the mask. These must be in perfect symmetry, with the coiffure as the largest and most elaborate part of the mask. The features of the face are held to a standard, while distinctions occur among the coiffures.