Kwele Mask, Gabon
height 9 1/2in (24cm)
ekuk, with a recessed heart-shaped face framing narrow eyes and a triangular nose; fine blackened patina contrasted with white kaolin on the facial plane.
Dr. George Oltay, South Africa then Paris
Udo Horstmann, Switzerland
Private Collection, Switzerland
African Art from South African Collections, Pretoia Art Museum, 1970, cat. no. 193
The residents of the equatorial forest of Central Africa primarily produced art that focused on ritual and cult, rather than objects that conveyed ideas of power and leadership. Though little is known about the Kwele people who live on the border between Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo, a legacy of rare masks has surfaced, consisting of highly stylized and abstract works. Ekuk masks were carried and shown to the audience during initiation ceremonies and at the end of mourning periods; they were never worn.