African art > Mask > Punu Mask
Punu Okuyi Mask (N° 16573)
This African Punu Okuyi mask features a double shell formed by braided and shaped hair. These hairstyles in various forms illustrate women's fashion during the 19th century in Gabon. This sculpture corresponds to the canons of Punu art with its frontal and temporal scarifications in diamond and checkerboard, mabinda. A collar also surrounds the entire face. The abraded white patina corresponds to the color of mourning, which establishes a link with the world of spirits and ancestors.
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These masks were associated with the various secret societies of Gabon, including the Bwiti, Bwete, and the Mwiri ("le"), the latter spanning into several levels of initiation, to which all punu men belonged, and whose emblem was the caiman. The punu did not involve any masks in the rituals of the Bwiti, unlike the Tsogo. These powerful secret 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 kaolin-bleached face mask, reminiscent of a deceased woman, was displayed at the dance called Okuyi.
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