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Baule, Yaure, Attie,
Democratic Republic of Congo
57. Kwele mask, Gabon, wood and pigments, 12 3/4" (33.5 cm)|
In “African Masks from the Barbier-Mueller Collection” (Hahner-Herzog et al) there is the following note on a similar Kwele mask: “The rare masks of the Kwele, a little- investigated ethnic group of northeast Gabon and the adjacent area of the Republic of the Congo, are associated with the Bwete association, which maintains social order. The masks are also used in initiation rites and at the end of periods of mourning. Representing benevolent forest spirits, they have zoomorphic or anthropomorphic traits, or a combination of the two. The faces are usually painted in white kaolin earth, a pigment associated by the Kwele with light and clarity, the two essential factors in the fight against evil.
Only a few of these masks, such as the present one, have eye slits and are thus suitable for wearing as a face mask. As field research has shown, however, the masks used in ceremonies had no eye apertures and were merely shown to the onlookers rather than being worn.” This form of mask, called ekuk, is representative of a guardian bush spirit.
Collection of Tookalook Tribal Arts
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