African art > African mask, tribal art, primitive art > Okuyi Mask
Gabon's Lumbu Mask (N° 14963)
This African mask is one of the stylistic variants of Gabon's white masks, itengi , (pl. bitengi) with a subtle-shaped face. In early art, this tribal mask from Gabon was associated with the various secret societies of Gabon, including the Bwiti , Bwete , and the Mwiri ("le"), the latter spreading into several levels of initiation, to which all the Punu men belonged, and whose emblem was the Caiman. The punu did not involve any masks in the rituals of the Bwiti, unlike the Tsogo. These powerful secret societies, which also had a judicial function, included several dances, including the leopard dance, the Esomba, the Mukuyi, and the dance of the Okuyi, on stilts, remaining the most widespread. Within this group, the Lumbu, Loumbu, Balumbu, located on the coastal part of Gabon and in the Republic of Congo, are located in the Middle Ogooue. This mask with an elongated face bleached with kaolin, evoking a deceased woman, was exhibited during the dance named Okuyi . Classically capped with shells on which the streaks represent the braids, they extend here with zoomophres between which appears a human figure. This refined copy, with its high cheekbones, incised gaze and pointed chin, is devoid of the traditional checkerboard scarifications, mabinda, which are associated, according to some authors, with the nine clans that founded the Kongo kingdom or the various migratory routes. However, the artist chose to garnish the collar bordering the face with these same patterns. The kaolin forms here a thick white patina and velvety, locally abraded, contrasting with the brown pigments of the entire face.
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