Punu Tribe Dance Mask - Pigmented Wood Gabon Africa - 17 Inches Tall
- Vintage item
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This very large, impressive dance mask is from the Punu tribe in southern Gabon, Africa. Hand carved of a single piece of wood with an adze and colored with natural pigments, its height is 17 inches,its width 12 inches and it's 7 inches deep. The mask portrays a woman ancestor, with her characteristic majestic Punu hairdo, her narrowed "coffee bean" eyes and pursed, protruding lips. Her domed forehead is scarified with a nine section design that has been interpreted as representing the nine ancient family clans of the Punu.
In 1868, the explorer Paul du Chaillu published his book "L’Afrique sauvage. Nouvelles excursions au pays des Ashangos" (" Wild Africa: new excursions to Ashangos country"). In his book, he describes Punu women, who "... beautify themselves by tattooing their foreheads with a sort of scarring. There are often nine small round protuberances, about the size of a pea, arranged in a rhombus between their eyebrows. They redden their skin....style their hair in various ways."
There is a hole carved out at the top of mask so that a pole may be inserted to hold the mask up while the dancer on tall stilts performing a ceremony could wear it tilted forward on his head. There is also a hole on each side of the mask for a strap or thong to hang up the mask when it is not in use. The sturdy cloth ribbon there now is of course a later addition but it does the job nicely.
This mask is in very good condition with some hairline cracks in the wood and normal wear to the pigments and a small missing piece at the top front edge of her coiffure. Although of imposing size and a weight of 2 pounds, 6 ounces, it is able to be safely hung on most walls. It's a handsome piece of indigenous African art you'll treasure.
Note: Both the Zigua tribe "mummified" fetish and the African gourd in our photo have been sold.