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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Masterpieces of African Art : Punu Wooden Bust of a Woman
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Punu Wooden Bust of a Woman - CK.0264
Origin: Southern Gabon
Circa: 20th th Century AD
Dimensions: 19" (48.3cm) high x 8.5" (21.6cm) wide
Collection: African Art
Medium: Wood, Paint, beads

Location: United States
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The tribes of SW Gabon developed extensive masquerade ceremonies prior to the erosion of traditional ways of life by European forces in the early 20th century. While there were various functions for masked entities within village social architecture, the masquerade tradition found its fullest expression in the execution and use of masks during the funerals of important dignitaries. At these funerals, okuyi masks – that are designed to portray the ideal female – appear, with the idealised male counterpart, as the spirits of deceased ancestors to guide the newly dead to the hereafter. The mask type is known as “the white masks of Ogowe”, as they were usually painted with kaolin and/or white paint to heighten their already serene expressions. Some sources claim that the white paint symbolises the groups’ anti- witchcraft powers. They were usually worn in association with raffia or cloth costumes, and stilts up to about seven feet tall were also worn to heighten their impact. They are technically naturalistic, and echo the aesthetic conventions of feminine hairstyles and general facial proportions. This large bust has is stylistically similar to the okuyi mask but clearly would not have been worn over a dancer's face. - (CK.0264)


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