African art > African mask, tribal art, primitive art > Punu mask
Punu mask (N° 23048)
Among the wide variety of African masks Punu, this example is topped with double shells framed by short braids. Traditional "mabinda" checkerboard scarifications adorn the female face. These white masks from Gabon called bitengi (sing.: itengi) were performed especially at funerals and during the initiations of young boys. Two-tone matte patina. Abrasions.
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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 spanning several levels of initiation, to which all Punu men belonged, and whose the emblem was the caiman. The Punus did not involve any mask in Bwiti rituals, 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 dance of the Okuyi, on stilts, remaining the most widespread. This whitewashed kaolin face mask, evoking a deceased woman, was exhibited during the dance called Okuyi, where the dancer, equipped with a fly swatter, was draped in a garment concealing his identity in the eyes of the public.
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