Gabon by Stephen Russell
Gabon (the Portuguese name of the Kome River) on the west coast of Africa is an independent state, also formally a french territory.
The country itself has diverse religious beliefs from Christianity, Bwiti to Animism and Islam. At least 5% of the population are considered Atheist in their beliefs. Raconteurs, who are story tellers, are working to keep the oral tradition of local folklore’s and legends alive within the culture.
The masks in Gabon culture, are designed for different beliefs in ceremonies depending on which tribe creates them. Made out of rare wood, or precious metals, they are internationally celebrated for there meanings and design. The masks are generally used in ceremonies such as births, weddings, or funerals. The Panu masks have their own use
of warding off evil spirits and witches. The concepts of life or death are very important in the meaning of the masks.
When used in the appropriate rituals set to the coinciding music, the mask transforms a male performer into an ideal feminine beauty or a spiritual being, while the carved white mask depicts a serine woman. As funeral rites are performed after a death, the masks contrast the rigorous stilt dances that are performed at the same time.
Another tribal mask is native to the Ogoou’e river basin in the country .The pun-lumbo mask.They are highly collectible and considered valuable pieces of African art. They are oval shaped with narrow eyes, high eyebrows and small ears. The male masks are considered ugly by the local people, where the females are seen as more attractive they have been linked to female ancestry celebrations and funerary spirit ceremonies.