Kwele Face Masks

Northern Gabon

The Kwele masks of Gabon are used during initiation ceremonies and or at the end of a mourning period. The masks represent the spirits of the forest. The face of the masks are normally painted with white kaolin, the white represents the spirit world (peace and tranquility). Maskers do not wear Kwele masks during ceremonies; instead they are shown to the audience.

Physical characteristics of the kwele mask:Kwele_mask_LUC_2349.jpg (26286 bytes)

  1. The horns of the mask always curve downwards; this could be associated with tranquility, or a state of  peace and rest.
  2. The mouth is situated very close to the chin.
  3. Narrow eyes.
  4. Small pointed triangular nose.
  5. Wide arced eyebrows.

GRE_2819a.jpg (46992 bytes)The mask to the left is somewhat uncommon in that the horns are w-shaped and not arched. Possibility exists that this type of mask was made for the tourist trade. The faces on the horns are fairly common.

Gabon is located along the equator in West-central Africa. (See Map of Africa) Timber was its only primary resource. They had a near bankrupt economy and people suffered from acute malnutrition, until they gained Independence on the 17th August 1960 from the previously (Rome French Colony).

By 1985, Gabon was the 6th largest oil producer on the African continent. Main primary products include Cocoa, coffee, palm oil, bananas, rice, livestock manganese and uranium.

Also read

bulletKwele mask catalog
bulletAfrican mask catalog index
bulletA basic introduction to African mask forms
bulletThe history of African masks
bulletGabon fact sheet and Flag
bulletMap of Africa

Learn more about the African mask and tribe culture - click links below.

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