You are using an outdated browser!

In order to be able to use our website fully functional, you should install a current browser version. You can find a list of recommended browser versions right here.



Lot No. 71


Punu, Gabon: A rare, black Punu mask, called ‘Ikwara mask’.


Punu, Gabon: A rare, black Punu mask, called ‘Ikwara mask’. - Tribal Art

The Punu, who live in the south of Gabon, are famous for their typically white masks, known as ‘Okuyi masks’ with their ‘Asiatic’ slit eyes (which have nothing to do with Japanese No masks). Cf also cat. no. 70. Much rarer amongst the Punu are the black masks, carved in a very similar style to the ‘Okuyi masks’, but coloured black with plant dyes. They are called ‘Ikwara’ or ‘Ikwara mokulu’ (‘night masks’). Whereas the white Punu masks are used during for dances during the day, at markets and large feasts, in full body costumes and on stilts of up to two metres, the black ‘Ikwara’ or ‘night masks’ appear only at twilight or dusk. They are used by dancers on shorter stilts of up to 1 metre in height. The white and black Punu masks also differ fundamentally in their meaning: whereas the white masks, used during the day on high stilts, represent a positive and cheerful aspect (a beautiful girl from the afterlife visits the living benevolently), the black ‘night masks’ represent a negative and dangerous spiritual background. They only appear at special night-time gatherings, at rituals for the administration of justice or if the Punu society is threatened by ill-fortune, illness, epidemics, witchcraft or criminality. ‘Ikwara masks’ should divert the evil. The present, very beautiful and old, black ‘Ikwara mask’ is carved out of lightweight, light-coloured wood and wears a high towering hairstyle, as also worn by the women of the Tsogho, the neighbouring tribe to the north of the Punu. To the left and right of the tower hang two short, relief-carved plaits and, on these, two large, white glass beads on knotted leather bands. Above the forehead runs a vertical scarification mark to the highly arched eyebrows. The eyes correspond to the ‘Asiatic slit’ style of the Punu. Below the short, slightly curved nose is a beautiful, reddish-brown mouth. From both corners of the mouth extend inset scarification marks, lancet shaped, which display the traces of original white colouring by means of kaolin. The neck of the mask is emphatically broad and strong, as the mask costume would be pulled over it and attached to it. Overall, an unusually beautiful, old ‘Ikwara mask’ of the Punu, with an impressive, shiny usage patina on its front side and rear (inside). Only minor damage as a result of long use: small, old breaks on both ears and on the back rim at the top, as well as a little colour scuffing. H: 31 cm; W: 20 cm. First third of the 20th century. (ME)

Provenance: According to information of the consignor, this black Punu mask was purchased between 1920 and 1940 ‘in situ’ in south Gabon. Since then, in a French private collection.

Lit.: ‘Punu’ by Louis Perrois & Charlotte Grand-Dufay, fig. 21, 22, 23, 31, 40, 47.

Specialist: Erwin Melchardt Erwin Melchardt
+43-1-515 60-465

erwin.melchardt@dorotheum.at

02.11.2015 - 14:00

Realized price: **
EUR 5,000.-
Starting bid:
EUR 4,000.-

Punu, Gabon: A rare, black Punu mask, called ‘Ikwara mask’.


The Punu, who live in the south of Gabon, are famous for their typically white masks, known as ‘Okuyi masks’ with their ‘Asiatic’ slit eyes (which have nothing to do with Japanese No masks). Cf also cat. no. 70. Much rarer amongst the Punu are the black masks, carved in a very similar style to the ‘Okuyi masks’, but coloured black with plant dyes. They are called ‘Ikwara’ or ‘Ikwara mokulu’ (‘night masks’). Whereas the white Punu masks are used during for dances during the day, at markets and large feasts, in full body costumes and on stilts of up to two metres, the black ‘Ikwara’ or ‘night masks’ appear only at twilight or dusk. They are used by dancers on shorter stilts of up to 1 metre in height. The white and black Punu masks also differ fundamentally in their meaning: whereas the white masks, used during the day on high stilts, represent a positive and cheerful aspect (a beautiful girl from the afterlife visits the living benevolently), the black ‘night masks’ represent a negative and dangerous spiritual background. They only appear at special night-time gatherings, at rituals for the administration of justice or if the Punu society is threatened by ill-fortune, illness, epidemics, witchcraft or criminality. ‘Ikwara masks’ should divert the evil. The present, very beautiful and old, black ‘Ikwara mask’ is carved out of lightweight, light-coloured wood and wears a high towering hairstyle, as also worn by the women of the Tsogho, the neighbouring tribe to the north of the Punu. To the left and right of the tower hang two short, relief-carved plaits and, on these, two large, white glass beads on knotted leather bands. Above the forehead runs a vertical scarification mark to the highly arched eyebrows. The eyes correspond to the ‘Asiatic slit’ style of the Punu. Below the short, slightly curved nose is a beautiful, reddish-brown mouth. From both corners of the mouth extend inset scarification marks, lancet shaped, which display the traces of original white colouring by means of kaolin. The neck of the mask is emphatically broad and strong, as the mask costume would be pulled over it and attached to it. Overall, an unusually beautiful, old ‘Ikwara mask’ of the Punu, with an impressive, shiny usage patina on its front side and rear (inside). Only minor damage as a result of long use: small, old breaks on both ears and on the back rim at the top, as well as a little colour scuffing. H: 31 cm; W: 20 cm. First third of the 20th century. (ME)

Provenance: According to information of the consignor, this black Punu mask was purchased between 1920 and 1940 ‘in situ’ in south Gabon. Since then, in a French private collection.

Lit.: ‘Punu’ by Louis Perrois & Charlotte Grand-Dufay, fig. 21, 22, 23, 31, 40, 47.

Specialist: Erwin Melchardt Erwin Melchardt
+43-1-515 60-465

erwin.melchardt@dorotheum.at


Buyers hotline Mon.-Fri.: 9.00am - 6.00pm
kundendienst@dorotheum.at

+43 1 515 60 200
Auction: Tribal Art
Date: 02.11.2015 - 14:00
Location: Vienna | Palais Dorotheum
Exhibition: 28.10. - 02.11.2015


** Purchase price incl. charges and taxes

It is not possible to turn in online buying orders anymore. The auction is in preparation or has been executed already.