African art > African mask, tribal art, primitive art > Crest Punu
Rare crest mask, punu face masks being more common. A large sagittal crest shell, enhanced with two curved duvets, 'buyi', characteristic of the old punu masks according to L. Perrois and C. Grand-Dufay in Punu (ED. 5Continents), forms the braided headdress of this mask carved in a reddish wood, once coated with ritual kaolin, mpemba . A thick flared base makes up the neck, whose openings made it possible to secure the fabric enveloping the dancer. Patine mate, imprinted with the use of a mask that has obviously danced.
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The white masks of Gabon, itengi , (pl. bitengi) were associated with the various secret societies of Gabon, including the Bwiti, Bwete, and the Mwiri, the latter spanning several levels of initiation, to which all Punu men belonged, and whose emblem was the caiman (hence, for some, the saurian scale pattern). The punu did not involve any masks in the rituals of the Bwiti, unlike the Tsogo. This object, evoking a deceased woman, was exhibited during the dance called Okuyi . These powerful secret societies, which also had a judicial function, included several dances, including the dring of the leopard, the Esomba , the Mukuyi or the Okuyi depending on the location, acrobatic dance on stilts, remaining the most widespread.
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