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|Punu Tribe, Gabon|
Wooden masks whitened with kaolin have been observed among the Shira, Lumbo, Vuvi, Sango and Punu peoples in south and south central Gabon and southwestern Republic of the Congo since the late 19th century. Called mukudj and variant names according to geographical location (e.g., okuyi), the masks appeared in masquerades during funeral celebrations, when masked male dancers on stilts, concealed under fiber costumes, performed acrobatic feats. Contemporary Punu prominently display the masks in their homes as a sign of ethnic identity and wear mukudj masks made specially for performances that celebrate a number of events. The masks range from highly naturalistic to extremely abstract in style and are found in distinct geographical locations. The clear naturalism of this mask argues for a southern origin among the Punu. The mask itself represents the idealized image of feminine beauty. Arched eyebrows carved in low relief, narrow eye slits between convex lids, a short, finely formed nose, and a closed, pursed mouth characterize the sensitively modeled face, whose harmonious features exude serenity. The lips show evidence of paint, which has been applied and reapplied.
The white color, however, is genderless: it symbolizes the afterlife and the spirits of the dead. Punu society is matrilineal, and the Punu believe that the line of descent goes through the woman not the man. For this reason ‘female’ masks are of great importance, although of course the dancers who wear them are always men. The Punu live in independent villages divided in to clans and families and social cohesion in insured by a society, known as Moukouji, whose primary role is to subjugate harmful forest spirits. During ceremonies related to the society, small statues and masks appear which are often covered in white pigments, alluding to their anti-witchcraft functions.
|Location of Origin: Africa|
|Medium/Materials: wood, white kaolin pigment stain, red lacquer paint (lips)|
|Dimensions: 13” (33 cm) (h) x 7.5” (19 cm)(w) x 3.5” (8.8 cm)(d)|
|Primary Classification: African Artwork, Ethnographic & Tribal Arts : African Art|
|Condition: excellent, natural wear and signs of natural encrustation and shine from human handling|
Literature:Amrouche (Pierre), "Un masque Mukuye Punu du sud-Gabon", in: La Revue. Le magazine de Pierre Bergé & Associés, Brussels, No.10, Mars 2007
Bolz (Ingeborg), "Zur Kunst in Gabon", in: Ethnologica, Neue Folge, Band 3, Koln, 1966
Falgayrettes-Leveau (Christiane), "Les masques", in: "Gabon présence des esprits", Musée Dapper, Paris, France, 2006
Fourquet (André), "Chefs d'Oeuvre de l'Afrique: les masques Pounou", in: L'Oeil. Revue d'Art, no.321, April 1982
Gabon Vivante. Minestere de l'information et du tourisme de la republique gabonaise, 1966
Perrois (Louis), "Arts du Gabon, Arts d'Afrique Noire. Les Plastiques du Bassin de l'Ogooue", Arnouville: Arts d'Afrique Noire, 1979
Perrois (Louis) & Grand-Dufay (Charlotte), "Punu", Milan: 5 Continents Editions, 2008
Literature: Deschamps (Hubert): "Traditions orales et archives au Gabon", Paris 1962
|Provenance: Ex. Sotheby's – November, 1997 - Important Tribal Art, New York Lot 30, Ex. Collection Berndt Helleberg, Sweden|
|Price:||Item has been sold.|
|Offered By:||Items may still be available - Please contact The Curator's Eye for more information|
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