Among the wide variety of African masks Punu, distinguished by details such as the shape of the hairstyle, the features and the scarfications, this example is topped with multiple horizontal shells. It illustrates the refinement of the bitengi (sing.: itengi) masks that were produced in Gabon during funerals or initiations of young boys.
Matte patina, abrasions, cracks and lack.
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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