Ngil Mask

Fang peoples

Gabon

Ngil Mask, ca. 1900

  • On View

Wood and white kaolin

Dimensions: 23 × 7 7/8 × 7 1/2 in. (58.4 × 20 × 19.1 cm)

Gift of Genevieve and Richard Shaw, by exchange, 2011.321

The Ngil men’s secret society, whose social function is judiciary administration of the Fang people, likely used this mask. Known as a ngil mask, it represents a terrifying half-human spirit that bestows punishment on wrong doers within the community. Members of the Ngil society dress in various masquerades to hide their identity and travel from village to village seeking out illicit witchcraft and sorcery. The mask only appears at night, illuminated by torchlight, making the mask all the more frightening and spirit-like. In Fang tradition, white is the color of the dead so it is believed that the ngil mask is the spirit of the ancestors visiting.

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