Kwele (Bakwele, Bakouele, Bekwil, Ebaa, Kouele), Gabon, Cameroon, Republic of Congo
Protective pibibuze mask. The Kwele occupy a great forest region on the borders of Gabon, Cameroon and the Republic of Congo. The masks of Kwele are associated with the Bwete association, which maintains social order. The masks are also used in initiation rites and at the end of periods of mourning. Representing benevolent forest spirits, they have zoomorphic or anthropomorphic traits, or a combination of the two. The faces are usually painted in white kaolin earth, a pigment associated by the Kwele with light and clarity, the two essential factors in the fight against evil. The masks used in ceremonies were merely shown to the onlookers rather than being worn. The masks with human faces used in initiation and funeral rites were called pibibuze (man) by the Kwele. The meaning of these masks with human faces and curved horns is not known. They have been interpreted as representing antelopes or rams, but no explanation of the underlying belief system was given.
Size: H. 22, W. 12, D. 2