An emaciated face, with arched, globular eyelids, and a mouth revealing the teeth, distinguish this punu mask depicting an elderly person. A surprising headdress, radiating around the forehead, develops into quarters. The traditional scarifications are cut in strong projection.
(missing on one end of one of the shells)
Velvety matte patina.
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 ranging in several levels of initiation, to which all Punu men belonged, and whose emblem was the caiman (hence, for some, the saurian scale motif). These powerful secret societies, which also had a judicial function, featured several dances, including the leopard dance, the Esomba, the Mukuyi or the Okuyi depending on the place, acrobatic dance on stilts, remaining the most widespread. In some villages, at dawn or 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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