African art > Mask > Punu Mask
Punu Mask (N° 18892)
This African mask, refined and reduced in volume, is one of the stylistic variants of the white masks of Gabon, itengi, (pl. bitengi) with a face endowed with astonishingly realistic features. A high, skillfully braided hairstyle gathered in a single shell surmounts the band limiting the forehead. The checkerboard scarification, mabinda , often tinged with red ochre, is discreet. The double chinstrap enhances the face's shape. The kaolin forms a velvety patina, abraded, on the whole.
In primitive art, this tribal mask of Gabon was associated with the various secret societies of Gabon, including the Bwiti, Bwete and Mwiri, the latter of which had several levels of initiation, to which all the Punu men belonged, and whose emblem was the caiman. The Punu did not use masks in the rituals of the Bwiti, unlike the Tsogo. These powerful secret societies, which also had a judicial function, included several dances, of which the leopard dance, the Esomba dance, the Mukuyi dance and the Okuyi dance on stilts were the most common. This kaolin bleached face mask, evocative of a dead woman, was displayed during the dance called Okuyi.
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