African art > Mask > Fang mask
Fang Ngil mask (N° 13901)
Ex-french African art collection.
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Rituals of justice and African masks Fang.
The drop of the forehead accentuates here the severe appearance of the protracted brow arches of a powerful, straight nose. The figuration of carnassière teeth also imprints a threat of vengeance on this primitive mask. Under the thin slits of the eyes, along the nasal ridge, arrow veins recall ethnic scarifications.
Soft wood, abraded surface, velvety dry patina.
The appearance of these kaolin-coated masks (the white color evokes the power of the ancestors), in the middle of the night, could cause fear. This type of mask was used by the male ngil society in northwestern Gabon, south of Cameroon, and in Equatorial Guinea. This secret society was in charge of initiations and fought against witchcraft. The ngil was a purifying fire rite symbolized by the gorilla. The wearers of these masks, always in large numbers, appeared at night, lit by torches. Their intervention was also linked to the judicial function by pointing out the culprits of the bad deeds in the village. The Fang ethnic group, established in a region stretching from Yaoundé in Cameroon to Ogooué in Gabon, has never had any political unity. Clan cohesion was maintained through religious and judicial associations such as social and ngil. Following his trip to the region in 1851, Paul du Chaillu painted a portrait of the Fangs in his book entitled Voyages et aventures en Afrique équatoriale. His story, long considered fallacious, portrays the Fangs as belligerent, superstitious and anthropophageal. It is only later that the correctness of his testimony will be accepted and recognized by his peers.
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