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Okuyi mask

The mask must be imagined worn with its costume, its attributes - an often determining factor - and above all danced and sung; without this it is only a meaningless object. Those of the "okukwè" (ancient initiatic society) are in light wood, painted black (eyebrows, middle of the forehead and mouth area) and red, with a beard of many long fibers of raffia, similar to those of the costume which entirely hid the dancer. It simbolized the spirit of punishment and played the role of bogey, menacing unfaithful women, hitting the guilty and discouraging the women who were temptated to "seek fortune" elsewhere.

Since a long time, those dances are a mere amusement for adults and even for children.

An exceptional treasure: "okuyi" mask of the Galoa, in Gabon (19th century)

This mask was sent to the Musée de l'Areuse about 1890 by Virgile Gacon, a joiner from Boudry who became auxiliary missionary at the stations of Kangwé/Lambaréné, and afterwards Talagouga, in Gabon.

Source: Musée de l'Areuse, Guide to the exhibition "de l'Ogowé à l'Areuse", May 1978, Roland Kaehr, deputy curator at the Musée d'ethnographie, Neuchâtel

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© Musée de l'Areuse, Boudry, 2002
updated: 5-oct-02