Gabon, of light wood, with arching brow-line and large inset hobnails. Remains of engraving to the perimeter and forehead, brow and face. height 7in
Provenance: Jim Willis
Exhibited: Governors State University, IL, 2003 Krannert Art Museum, IL, 2003 Belger Art Foundation/University of Missouri-Kansas City, MO, 2004 Tall Grass Art Association, IL, 2005
Published: Bourgeois and Rodolitz, REMNANTS OF RITUAL: SELECTIONS FROM THE GELBARD COLLECTION OF AFRICAN ART, Ethnos, New York, 2003, p.28, fig.62
This white, heart-shaped face decorated by incised or black lines is characteristic of Gabon masks in general and bears a stylistic continuity with those of the Igbo, Ibibio and Idoma peoples of south-eastern Nigeria. The heart-shape, alone, formed by the eyebrows and sunken facial plane, remains diagnostic for mask styles extending across equatorial Africa, but particularly among the Lega and related groups in eastern D.R.C. Congo. Such stylistic continuities over such vast regions seem difficult to explain but perhaps may be linked to particular reverence paid to ancestral skulls or to the moon in ritual practices throughout this area. In general, the color white (produced by a wash of white clay) is linked with the dead or the spirits.