Lot 85
  • 85

Punu Mask, Gabon

40,000 - 60,000 USD
35,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • wood, pigment


Guy Piazzini, Paris
Merton D. Simpson, New York
Pace Primitive, New York, acquired from the above
John Buxton, Dallas, acquired from the above
Myron Kunin, Minneapolis, acquired from the above on September 14, 1987

Catalogue Note

The famous white masks of the Punu and Lumbo peoples were worn during the okuyi performance (LaGamma 1995 calles them mukudj'), one of the rites of mwiri, an important male initiation society spread throughout southern and central Gabon.  The okuyi masks appeared during community rituals linked to important events of village life (funerals, end of mourning, youth initiation, transgressions of clan orders, birth, epidemics, etc). Representing female entities from the world of spirits or the dead, the masks capture an ideal of beauty. They are characterized by a face with youthful features, half-closed eyelids under slightly raised arching eyebrows, a fine realistically-rendered nose, a mouth pursed forward with full red-painted lips, painted red, and an elaborate crested coiffure. The two-crested hairstyle of the Kunin mask is particularly prestigious - and rare.  Varying by region, some masks have lozenge-shaped scars on the front and quadrangular patterns on the sides, punctuated by thick "scales" painted in bright red.  These nine scales in relief evoke not only the nine mythical primordial clans from which all Punu-Lumbo groups derive, known in oral traditions by the name Bayaka, but also the crocodile as a totemic animal.