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Punu Duma or Mvudi mask, Gabon
Wood, pigment, kaolin
11" tall x 7" wide
Early 20th century, most likely from the period between 1910-1920.
Ex Private collection, US

Inventory # RT71

A classically beautiful Punu mask.


In the classification by Louis Perrois, this mask falls under the Variant D type.

"This style of mask with scarified cheeks and forehead is found in the Gabonese hinterland, rather than on the
Atlantic coast or in the Ngounie valley. This type represents 9% of the corpus of Punu masks, which gives them
considerable stylistic importance.

They are small and triangular, characterized by a forehead that bulges outward, in contrast with the face as such,
which has large, half-closed eyes with prominent eyelids, a small but finely sculpted nose, large, stretched,
delicately-shaped (but not open) lips, a narrow chin over a thin collar, and a hair style featuring a large central
shell, sometimes double. The face is expressive, decorated by quite deep striped scarifications, and colored with
ochre. There is often a three-branched cross-like motif on the forehead, with vertical arms at right angles on the
temples in front of the ears, and a horizontal motif that traverses the cheeks and the nose from one ear to the

These masks were an integral part of rituals that had deep roots in the region were called
duma (from the name
of the dance) or
mvudi (E. Anderson, Kuta I, 1953, p. 346). They were used by the Ndzebi and the Tsangui (who
were the Kota-Ndassa's immediate neighbors to the west) in mourning rituals with dances on stilts. They
represented dead people, and especially women - girls or chiefs' wives. "  
Louis Perrois, 'The White Masks of South Gabon'

Similar examples:
Punu mask in the Musee Barbier-Mueller, Geneva (
inventory # 1019.30)
Sotheby's Paris, December 2006,
Lot 99
Sotheby's Paris, December 2007, Lot 60
Sotheby's Paris, June 2008, Lot 144
For additional detail, click on any photo below to see the higher resolution version of the image.