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Event

Kristin Otton, a Ph.D. student in IU's Department of Anthropogy, will discuss the aesthetically distinctive, helmet-style sowei masks of West Africa's Sande (or Bundu) society, which have become fixtures in many Western museum collections, including the Mathers Museum's collection. Scholarship has yielded important insights into the beautiful, stylistically standard aesthetic markers of sowei that materialize symbolic and cultural values. Attention to non-standard features, however, reveals practical formation of individualized form and identity. Close examination of the sowei masks in the collections of the Mathers Museum, National Museum of Natural History, and the National Museum of African Art reveal instances of intervention over time on the vast majority of the sowei masks. These interventions include physical alteration of the material form, repair of damage, maintenance or application of aesthetic standards, and transformation of identity. The physical evidence of these actions not only indicates the continued process of making sowei, but also illustrates the active and purposeful negotiation of the continuum between beauty and ugliness by both local and global forces. Otto's research focuses on the production and consumption of knowledge about Africa based on material culture in the museum setting. The event will be free and open to the public.

TIME: 4:30 p.m.

COST: free

WHERE: IU Mathers Museum of World Cultures, 416 N. Indiana Ave., Bloomington. 812-855-6873

» Find more events at this venue: IU Mathers Museum of World Cultures