Mask for the Okuyi Society (Mukudj)
Arts of Africa
On View: Special Exhibitions, Egyptian Galleries, 3rd Floor
In the past mukudj masks were danced on stilts in masquerades during funeral celebrations. The mask’s white coloring symbolizes peace, the afterlife, and the spirits of the dead—though today its performances are chiefly for entertainment.
late 19th century
9 7/8 x 7 x 6in. (25.1 x 17.8 x 15.2cm) (show scale)
Museum Expedition 1922, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund
Prior to 1922, provenance not yet documented; by 1922, acquired by François Poncelet of Brussels, Belgium; 1922, purchased in Brussels from François Poncelet by Stewart Culin for the Brooklyn Museum.
Light wooden dance mask, carved in the form of a human face with high headdress painted black in six parallel, curved ridges going from front to back. Face colored white and decorated with three groups of keloids: between brows, at outer edges of eyes and brows, and on temples. Slit eyes, holes at either side for attachment. Used by a female secret society.
Condition: Surface wear; missing pigment. Holes in face at lower left and in one eye.
Punu. Mask for the Okuyi Society (Mukudj), late 19th century. Wood, pigment, 9 7/8 x 7 x 6in. (25.1 x 17.8 x 15.2cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1922, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund, 22.225. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 22.225_SL1_edited_version.jpg)
overall, 22.225_SL1_edited_version.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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When was this made?
This Punu Mask by an unidentified Punu artist was made in the late 19th century in Gabon.
It is believed that masks like are carved to resemble a beautiful Punu woman, due to their heart-shaped faces, high cheekbones and overall delicate features. This mask may have been modeled after the likeness of specific women who knew the carver of this mask, as the hairstyle is unique to each mask.