African art > African mask, tribal art, primitive art > Punu Mask
Punu mask of the Okuyi (N° 19146)
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A double top shell, flanked on both sides by two short oblique comforters caps this copy. The face offers a subtle modeling with a benevolent expression, highlighted by the traditional chequered keloids "mabinda". Abraded matt patina, erosions.
The white masks of Gabon, itengi, (pl. bitengi) were associated with the various secret societies of Gabon, including the Bwiti, Bwete, and the Mwiri ("to lead"), the latter being spread over several levels of initiation, to which all Punu men belonged, and whose emblem was the caiman (hence, for some, the saurian scaled pattern). The Punu did not use masks in the rituals of the Bwiti, unlike the Tsogo. This object, evocative of a dead young woman, was exhibited during the dance called Okuyi. These powerful secret societies, which also had a judicial function, included several dances, among which the Leopard Dance, the Esomba Dance, the Mukuyi Dance, or the Okuyi Dance, depending on the place, an acrobatic dance on stilts, being the most widespread. In some villages, at dawn or at dusk, the Okuyi was accompanied by songs in an esoteric language that only initiates could understand. (Punu,L. Perrois and C. Grand-Dufay)
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