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Face mask (ñgontang)

Arts of Africa

Little is known about the functions of masks such as this one, since they fell out of use by 1910. It is thought that they might have had a role in boys’ initiations into adulthood.

Among the Fang, the spirits of the dead are associated with the color white, suggesting a connection with the ancestral realm. White clay (kaolin) is also used by healers in medical practices. This face mask could have been related to either set of practices.
MEDIUM Wood, kaolin, pigment
  • Place Made: Gabon
  • DATES late 19th century
    DIMENSIONS 11 1/8 x 7 x 2 1/4 in. (28.3 x 17.8 x 5.7 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CREDIT LINE Collection of Beatrice Riese
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Fang (Betsi subgroup) artist. Face mask (ñgontang), late 19th century. Wood, kaolin, pigment, 11 1/8 x 7 x 2 1/4 in. (28.3 x 17.8 x 5.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Collection of Beatrice Riese, 2011.4.6. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2011.4.6_SL1_edited.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 2011.4.6_SL1_edited.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Colored male face mask with carved coiffure, scalloped design above forehead, small pierced eyes, simple flat curved nose, and carved teeth. Much of white clay pigment has been abraded.
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