African art > African mask, tribal art, primitive art > Punu mask
Punu mask (N° 23128)
The African masks of the Punu express great serenity. This version of the punu type, whose braided headdress encircles the face in its entirety, offers fine features. Velvety matte patina.
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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 ("to lead"), the latter ranging in several levels of initiation, to which all Punu men belonged, and whose emblem was the caiman (hence, for some, the saurian scale motif). This object, evocation of a deceased young woman, was exhibited during the dance called Okuyi. These powerful secret societies, which also had a judicial function, featured several dances, including the leopard dance, the Esomba, the Mukuyi or the Okuyi depending on the place, acrobatic dance on stilts, remaining the most widespread. In some villages, at dawn or dusk, the Okuyi was accompanied by songs in an esoteric language that only initiates could understand. (Punu, L. Perrois and C. Grand-Dufay)
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