Tribal art > African mask > Punu Mask
Punu Okuyi Mask (N° 19432)
Ex Belgian tribal art collection.
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Among the great variety of African Punu masks, this one is topped by a high shell framed by braids ending in curved crescents. The face offers a carefully modeled and pointed chin. The traditional scarification is raised with red ochre. These white masks from Gabon, named bitengi (sing.: itengi), were particularly used at funerals and during the initiation of young boys. Abraded matt patina.
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 being spread over several levels of initiation, to which all Punu men belonged, and whose emblem was the caiman. The Punu did not use any mask 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 dance of the Okuyi on stilts, which is still the most widespread. This kaolin bleached face mask, evocative of a dead woman, was displayed during the dance called Okuyi, where the dancer, equipped with a fly repellent, was draped with a garment hiding his identity from the public.
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