The mask opposite is one of the stylistic variants of the white masks of Gabon, itengi , (pl. bitengi)with a subtly modeled face.
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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.
These powerful secret societies, which also had a judicial function, included several dances, of which the dance of the leopard, the Esomba ,the Mukuyi ,and the dance of the Okuyi , on stilts, remained the most widespread.
Within this group "Shira" the Lumbu, Loumbu, Balumbu, settled on the coastal part of Gabon, and in the Republic of Congo, are settled in the middle Ogooue.
This kaolin-bleached face mask, an evocation of a deceased woman, was exhibited during the dance named Okuyi . Classically topped with shells on which the striations represent braids, the latter extended here by two horns evoking the buffalo, this type of mask is devoid of the checkerboard scarifications, mabinda, inscribed on the face and which would be associated, according to some authors, with the nine clans that founded the Kongo kingdom or with the various migratory routes. Two-tone velvety patina, locally abraded.
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