Mwana pwo (young woman) masks, danced by Chokwe men at festivals primarily for entertainment, are said to bestow increased fertility on the spectators. The masks represent female ancestors depicted as beautiful young women, with high foreheads, balanced features, filed teeth, and scarification. The scarification marks, which may duplicate those of the actual woman whose beauty inspired the carver, include the cingelyengelye design on the forehead. This cruciform design was probably derived from tin pendants traded into the Chokwe region by Portuguese voyagers as early as the seventeenth century.
Inscribed motifs on the mask’s forehead and cheeks are classic graphic designs that aesthetically enhanced a woman’s beauty in past generations and were signs of ethnic identity. The central cruciform on the forehead has been interpreted as a cosmogram while the markings on either cheek are described as a solar disc joined by tears. Chokwe masks are often performed at the celebrations that mark the completion of initiation into adulthood. That occasion also marks the dissolution of the bonds of intimacy between mothers and their sons. The pride and sorrow that event represents for Chokwe women is alluded to by the tear motif.