M’pongwe Mukuyi mask
Carved wood, pigments and kaolin
Early 20th century
Height: 12 ½ in. (32 cm)
Ex collection Garardus Wiegman
Ex private collection, Paris
Ex Christie’s, Paris, June 20th, 2006, lot 176
Ex collection Pierre Bergé, Paris
Yale University Art Gallery – The Yale-van Rijn Archive of African Art #0062062
As stated by A. LaGamma (1995), these masks were used during the mwiri ceremonies, an important male initiation society spread throughout southern and central Gabon. They 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.