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Object Name: Bwiti association mask
Culture: Ndzebi or Sango peoples
Place of Origin: Bend of the Ogowe River, Gabon
Date/Era: 19th to early 20th century
Medium/Materials: Wood, plant fiber, cotton string, metal, glass beads, paint
Dimensions: H: 53cm
Credit Line: Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of the Wellcome Trust.
Accession Number: X65.5270
A large and imposing presence, this mask was most likely used by members of the men’s initiation society called Bwiti for mourning and funerary rites and may have been performed on stilts. The same polychromatic decoration in white, red, and black or blue can be found on the pillars and boards of the ebandza temples of the Bwiti association. The masquerade would have honored beloved ancestors and served to keep malevolent forces at bay. In Gabonese cultures, the color white is associated with ancestral presence and blessing.
Source: Gallery text, Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives, 2006.
See also: Marla C. Berns, World Arts, Local Lives: The Collections of the Fowler Museum at UCLA. Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, 2014.