Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Not long ago, we took our visiting friend German to the notorious Museum of Arts and Traditions. The gate was open and so we entered the museum grounds, hardly believing our luck. The establishement itself, however, proved to be closed. We knocked on the door several times and, just as we were leaving, a gentleman in a smart suit appeared and opened the door. He told us it was indeed after opening hours but he, the director of the museum, would make an exception for us. And he did - he gave us a guided tour of the exhibition and played a film about Pygmies, whom he, an anthropologist, generously called the link between animals and civilised man. I jumped at my chance for more illegal photos and I proudly present the results below.

Ngon'Ntang, the White Girl
(from Estuaire)

It is a Fang mask, of anthropomorphic shape and four female faces. It is made of raffia, wood and eagle feathers, with coffee grains for eyes. It is used at the end of mourning, to bring the spirits of the dead home and thus avoid their getting lost.

Lekoka or Kidumu or Mvri, the Moonlight or the Terror (from Haut-Ogooué)

A Téké initiation mask, which above all symbolises moonlight that illuminates the society. Made of light osongo wood and toucan or eagle feathers, as well as raffia. This mask lets a boy become a real man. It is present during ceremonies held at the end of mourning, fortune-telling and it protects the village from evil.

Nzambe Kana, God Creator or the First Ancestor of Man (from Ngounié)

An anthropomorphic Tsogho mask made of wood and raffia. It is an initiation mask usually called Moghondzi, the spirit of the dead. It is used in various rites of passage, as well as in the event of death and in mourning. It promotes fertility.

Mukudji or Mbwand or Ngondji, the Tallest One or the Extreme Beauty (from Ngounié)

An anthropomorphic initiation mask from the Bapunu tribe has a face of a young girl, which has several scars: nine on the forehead, and nine on each temple. These scars are signs of beauty. The hair-do is typical of women in mourning and the eyes are made of almonds. The figure is elevated on stilts and its costume is made of raffia. It is used to appease the spirits of beautiful girls who died. Also, it is used in the celebrations at the end of mourning.

All the information is a direct translation from the museum's information panels. If you can spot any mistakes, please let me know!

1 comment:

  1. I am afraid they all still look like the hairy cousin to me ;-).