Skip Navigation

Likishi Dance Costume Shirt and Head Cover with Pwo Mask

Arts of Africa

This complete dance costume shows how masks are normally one part of a larger ensemble. The mask is sewn directly onto the costume of looped bark and fiber, which fits tightly over the body of the dancer. Seedpod rattles and metal bells added a musical aspect to the performance.

Although they are danced by Luvale men, mwana pwevo masks depict women. In order to own and perform with a mask, a man had to symbolically marry it by paying the carver a copper ring as a bride price. In so doing, the dancer made a commitment to honor and care for the spirit represented by the mask. In return, the dancer was able to earn his livelihood performing at local festivals.
CULTURES Luvale or Chokwe
MEDIUM Fiber, wood, seedpods, hide, metal
  • Place Made: Zambia
  • DATES late 19th or early 20th century
    DIMENSIONS 40 1/2 x 8 1/2 in. (102.9 x 21.6 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
    CREDIT LINE Museum Collection Fund
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Dance costume consisting of carved wooden mask, painted a light brown with small mouth lines, sharp white teeth, and slit eyes. A headdress-turban painted black is sewn to the costume, made of coiled fiber, and forms a tasseled fringe at the rear. A body covering of netted fiber dyed with dark and light brown is woven into stripes against a natural yellow ground. Carved wooden nipples are sewn to the front of the costume. Figure stands about 5' 5". CONDITION: The costume had been fitted over a mannequin and displayed for many years in the African Gallery, 1st floor of museum, and is much frayed from handling by visitiors and dirty from exposure. Hands have suffered the most damage, in their extended position.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Luvale. Likishi Dance Costume Shirt and Head Cover with Pwo Mask, late 19th or early 20th century. Fiber, wood, seedpods, hide, metal, 40 1/2 x 8 1/2 in. (102.9 x 21.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Collection Fund, 36.548. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 36.548_36.549_36.550a-b_36.551a-b_36.552_36.553_threequarter_installation_SL1.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 36.548_36.549_36.550a-b_36.551a-b_36.552_36.553_threequarter_installation_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
    You may download and use Brooklyn Museum images of this three-dimensional work in accordance with a Creative Commons license. Fair use, as understood under the United States Copyright Act, may also apply. Please include caption information from this page and credit the Brooklyn Museum. If you need a high resolution file, please fill out our online application form (charges apply). For further information about copyright, we recommend resources at the United States Library of Congress, Cornell University, Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums, and Copyright Watch. For more information about the Museum's rights project, including how rights types are assigned, please see our blog posts on copyright. If you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, please contact
    Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome any additional information you might have.