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Mask (mukudj), late 19th - early 20th century
Ngunie River, Gabon; Shira, Punu
Wood, pigment, H: 12 1/2 in, W: 6 1/2 in
Purchase 1954 Sophronia Anderson Bequest Fund  54.366
Not On View
Interpretation: Created by artists in various cultures throughout southern Gabon, mukudj masks portray exceptionally beautiful women. Masks representing these idealized females are then transformed into spiritual beings by applying kaolin, which is a fine white clay associated with healing and the spiritual realm of the ancestors. The mask would be worn by a skilled male dancer standing on stilts who performed a highly complex and acrobatic dance. Today, mukudj masks are danced mainly for entertainment, although they still fulfill a ritual function at funerals.
Provenance: John J. Klejman Gallery, by at least 1954; Newark Museum, purchase, 1954
Exhibition History:
"Arts of Africa," permanent galleries, Newark Museum, Newark, New Jersey (installed 2008).