African art > African mask, tribal art, primitive art > Punu mask
Punu mask (N° 21657)
This African mask, of reduced proportions, and presenting a harmonious face, forms one of the stylistic variants of the white masks of Gabon, itengi , (pl. bitengi). A skillfully braided hairstyle, gathered in hulls, highlights the neat features.
Checkerboard scarifications, mabinda, often tinted with red ochre, are inscribed on the face bordered by a ruff.
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In early art, this Gabonese tribal mask was associated with the various secret societies of Gabon, including the Bwiti, Bwete, and the Mwiri ("directing"),the latter of which ranged in several levels of initiation, to which all Punu men belonged, and whose emblem was the caiman. The Punu did not use any masks in the Bwiti rituals, unlike the Tsogo. These powerful secret societies, which also had a judicial function, included several dances, of which the leopard dance, the Esomba, the Mukuyi, and the Okuyi dance, on stilts, remained the most widespread. This kaolin-bleached face mask, an evocation of a deceased woman, was displayed during the dance named Okuyi.