Face mask (ñgontang)
Arts of Africa
This Fang mask is called ñgontang. While the term means “face of the white woman,” ñgontang masks can depict either male or female spirits. Such masks emerged in response to the changing late nineteenth-century political climate in Africa. The kaolin may suggest white European skin, but it also recalls previous white masks that depicted wild, animal-like forces. Early in the colonial period, Westerners and supernatural beings were conflated with negative, disruptive spirits and linked to the color white. Viewing a ñgontang mask like this one transformed Picasso’s art in 1906. However, he was unaware that the mask he admired was a lookalike modern artwork made for sale to foreigners (see photo). In contrast, the Brooklyn Museum’s mask was used, likely in an effort by Fang owners to reclaim their society by controlling European colonizers’ spiritual power.
Wood, kaolin, pigment
late 19th century
11 1/8 x 7 x 2 1/4 in. (28.3 x 17.8 x 5.7 cm) (show scale)
This item is not on view
Collection of Beatrice Riese
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Fang (Betsi subgroup) artist. Face mask (ñgontang), late 19th century. Wood, kaolin, pigment, 11 1/8 x 7 x 2 1/4 in. (28.3 x 17.8 x 5.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Collection of Beatrice Riese, 2011.4.6. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2011.4.6_SL1_edited.jpg)
overall, 2011.4.6_SL1_edited.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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Colored male face mask with carved coiffure, scalloped design above forehead, small pierced eyes, simple flat curved nose, and carved teeth. Much of white clay pigment has been abraded.
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