W3K8M229S.jpg (40220 bytes)W3K8M229.jpg (59941 bytes)Kwele (Bakwele, Bakouele, Bekwil, Ebaa, Kouele), Gabon, Cameroon, Republic of Congo

Protective ekuk mask. The Kwele practiced a cult known as beete (bwete) to ward off the evil machinations of sorcerers, who were held responsible for illnesses, death and other inexplicable happenings. The rites were accompanied by various mask types with anthropomorphic or zoomorphic traits that represented benevolent bush spirits. Some of them were painted white to symbolize clairvoyance and circumspection, two essential factors in the fight against evil. Masks with arching horns like this one belonged in this context. According to some sources they represented rams; others suggest that the masks’ horns actually alluded to large antelopes or even women’s hairstyles with long braids of a kind popular in Gabon many years ago. Masks with eye apertures were performed by dancers clad in a voluminous costume of fiber.

Material: wood

Size: H. 17”, W. 13”, D. 2”