African art > African mask, tribal art, primitive art > Punu mask
Punu OKuyi mask (N° 21227)
Among the great variety of African Punu masks, this example is topped with double shells framed by short braids. The perfectly oval face offers the traditional checkerboard scarification. These white masks from Gabon called bitengi (sing.: itengi) were notably performed at funerals and during the initiation of young boys. Two-tone matte patina.
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The masks of the Punu were associated with the various secret societies of Gabon, including the Bwiti, Bwete, and the Mwiri ("to lead"), the latter of which had several levels of initiation, to which all Punu men belonged, and whose emblem was the caiman. The Punu did not use masks in the Bwiti rituals, unlike the Tsogo. These powerful secret societies, which also had a judicial function, included several dances, including the leopard dance, Esomba ,Mukuyi, and the Okuyi dance, on stilts, remaining the most widespread. This kaolin-bleached face mask, an evocation of a deceased woman, was displayed during the dance called Okuyi, where the dancer, equipped with a fly swatter, was draped in a garment concealing his identity from the audience.
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