Antique Fang Ngontang Two-Faced Mask, Superb

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  • Item Category: Ethnic, Folk & Native American Art
  • Source: eBay
  • Sold Date: Sep 19, 2007
  • Channel: Auction House

African Tribal Art

Fang Ngontang Mask

Gabon

Material: wood, pigment Condition: weathering, cracks, overall good Size: approx 15" (38 cm ) Weight: 2.40 kg ref J1140

Fang Ngontang Mask

Gabon

This is a very old and rare Fang ngontang mask from Gabon. It has cut-outs on each side to fit over the shoulders of the wearer and a series of holes for him to see out of. In between the faces, on either side, is a relief carving of a crocodile.

This is a genuine tribal item between 50 and 70 years old, with signs of long use -- cf. the example illustrated in JB Bacquart, The Tribal Arts of Africa , p.127.

Ngontang , the white maiden of the Fang, is a spirit who returns to her village to seek out sorcerers and witches. Her four faces make her all-seeing. These masks were usually decorated with elaborate plumage when danced.

West African colonial authorities opposed the old tribal cults in the early decades of the last century, identifying them with political and social disobedience. Retreating from byeri and ngil left the Fang exposed to malign spirits and bereft of ancestral protection. Christianity was not a solution for all and many Fang transferred old beliefs into new forms, including ngontang , a cult which both honours the ancestors and offers protection against witches.
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