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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Masterpieces of African Art : Fang Mask
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Fang Mask - LSO.558
Origin: Gabon/Cameroon
Circa: 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 21" (53.3cm) high
Collection: African Art
Medium: Wood

Location: Great Britain
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The mask demonstrates several of the features that are characteristic of Fang sculptures and masks. The protuberant eyes, linear format of the forehead to the nose and the separate distinct mouth are all indicative of some Fang sculptures. The tall format of the mask and its general form also echo the Ngil masks that were used in the wielding of judicial powers- essentially to terrify confessions from the guilty and to ensure continued obedience from the innocent.

Apart from the somewhat concave shape and pale overall colour there is little other resemblance. It is therefore likely that it represents a post-imperial development of the Fang style, when new material, methods of manufacture and tales of other cultural traditions were percolating through ecuatorial Africa in the wake of European penetration into the interior. The format is that of a forehead mask that was 'blind' (i.e. had no eyeholes), so it was assigned to be worn with a cloth or raffia tunic that covered the wearer. The central face stands proud of the backboard, which is further decorated in relief with small Fang masks, c. 5 cm tall, and an array of geometric wavy lines. The whole mask is then painted white, with the relief features and semi-random highlights picked out in a glossy red paint. The condition of the wear of the item makes it obvious that the mask was repainted and reused over a long period of time. It is likely that the raffia framework for supporting the mask on the forehead has been replaced.

While not traditionally Fang, this mask has additional interest for the serious collector of African art, as it evokes a highly dynamic and significant stage in the development of indigenous art forms. - (LSO.558)


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