Declined under various hairstyles, the African masks Punu offer bleached female faces, twins on this copy. The traditional "mabinda" checkerboard scarifications pierce under the abraded surfaces. Named bitengi (sing.: itengi) the masks were used during funerals and initiations of young boys. Velvety matte patina.
The masks of the Punus were associated with the various secret societies of Gabon, including the Bwiti, Bwete, and the Mwiri ("to lead"), the latter spanning several levels of initiation. These powerful societies, which also had a judicial function, included several dances, including the leopard dance, the Esomba, the Mukuyi, and the Okuyi dance, on stilts, remaining the most widespread. . This mask was exhibited during the Okuyi dance, where the dancer, equipped with a fly swatter, was draped in a garment concealing his identity from the eyes of the public.
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