Mask - Metal, Wood - Mukuyi - Punu (ou Bapounou) - Gabon

Mask - Metal, Wood - Mukuyi - Punu (ou Bapounou) - Gabon
2nd half 20th century - Good condition, used with some signs of wear

Rare Punu Mukuyi mask from Gabon in polished glossy wood (usually they are all in white kaolin).

Located in the southwestern region of Gabon, the Punu are part of a group of populations essentially known for their white masks.

These items, which have never ceased to amaze collectors and lovers of African art, had fascinated Western artists as early as the beginning of the 20th century; Picasso, in particular, owned one.

The idealistic realism of the face covered with white clay, the slightly
almond-shaped eyes, the mouth with fine red lips and the sophisticated hairstyle composed of different braided hair shells are part of the stylistic characteristics of these masks.

This type of mask was used in a context of rituals during dances (called mukuyi among other names) performed by the Punu and related populations.

The masks belonged to the bwiri, a secret society of men, and those who wore them were chosen only among the initiates.

They would perform acrobatic dances on stilts, usually during
funerals and honouring ceremonies for the ancestors embodied by the masks.

They also played the role of guards and could push away the forces of evil.

The dances are still practiced, but during celebrations and without respecting the anonymity of those who wear masks.

Origin: Arkana Gallery Turin 1990 - KUNST AUS AFRIKA gallery - Berlin - Germany 1980

Lot details
Indigenous object name
Ethnic group/ culture
Punu (ou Bapounou)
Region/ country
Metal, Wood
2nd half 20th century
Good condition, used with some signs of wear
Sold with stand
27×17×13 cm
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