African art > African mask, tribal art, primitive art > Punu mask
Punu mask (N° 23245)
The tapered volumes of hair shells, whose ends extend on either side of the face, magnify the softness of the features of this mask embodying a young woman.
Abraded matte patina. Small accidents.
The white African 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 being spread over several levels of initiation, to which all the Punu men belonged, and whose emblem was the caiman (hence, for some, the pattern with saurian scales). The mask, evocation of a deceased young woman, was exhibited during the dance called Okuyi. The 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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