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Dimensions: L:13in W:7.5in D:5.9in
These Punu tribe masks are worn by men during funerary rites or celebratory dance ceremonies. The masks depict the faces of idealized female ancestors with braids, almond-shaped eyes and diamond scarification on the forehead and temples, which are said to represent the Punu's nine primordial clans. Punu society is matrilineal and they trace their ancestors through women rather than men. Punu masks, including those adorned with beads, are typically made from wood but other materials such as brass, bronze, ivory, copper and textiles can also be used. The red, white and black colors of the mask are created using padauk tree powder, white kaolin clay, and charcoal. Paint is often used to replace these natural substances nowadays.
About the Tribe
The Punu people reside on the left bank of the Upper Ngoume River in Gabon and belong to the group of tribes known as Shira. They live in independent villages that are divided into sects and families. Punu or Bapunu tribe is the second largest ethnic group in Gabon in terms of population. The Punu are matrilineal and trace their lines of descent through the women. The female ancestors are honored with okuyi ‘white masks’ that harness their power.
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