Africa Direct
Africa Direct

Fang Helmet Mask Four Faces Gabon African Art

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Brand Unbranded
Title Fang Helmet Mask Four Faces Gabon African Art
Type of Object Mask
Country of Origin Gabon
People Fang
Materials Wood, pigment
Approximate Age 20th century
Height (in) 14
Width (in) 10
Depth (in) 10
Overall Condition Good. Most of our pieces have spent decades on at least two continents, and have been treasured by several owners.   Small splits, scrapes and cracks are a normal part of their patina attesting to their age and extensive use.  We examine each piece carefully when we receive it and report any damage we find in our listings.  Please look carefully at the pictures which may also reveal condition and damage.
Damage/Repair Very worn surface

Additional Information:

Such a mask mask comes from the Fang. It is called Ngontang (or Ngontanga). The original Ngontang mask appeared among the Fang people of Southern Cameroon and Gabon shortly before 1920. It represents a spirit of the dead. visiting as a young white woman from the world beyond. The mask was used to locate sorcerers–those who misuse spiritual powers–but also danced at feasts, funerals, celebrations of birth, and on the occasion of an important communal decision. Examples exist from one to four faces.
The Fang migrated from the northeast over the centuries into the scattered areas in which they live today. They were a fierce people, seizing lands and villages as they spread. Today they number around 80 clans, and are spread over a vast area. Their geographic distribution, and the isolation and autonomy of the individual clans, has helped create many artisitic sub-styles. Each community is headed by a leader related to the founder of the village. They are mostly farmers, and ancestor worship continues to be the glue that binds each village together. The impact of the Fang in creating a wider appreciation for African art cannot be ignored, and viewing one of their masterpieces can be a thrilling and memorable experience.
See another example of Fang mask with four faces in GABON. Galerie Walu, p. 81

Recommended Reading: Binet, J. Societes de danse chez les Fang, (Paris, 1972)Fernandez, J. 'La statuaire Fang-Gabon', African Arts, 8, No.1, 1974.Fernandez, J. W. and R. L. 'Fang Reliquary Art: Its Quantities and Qualities.'Cahiers d'etudes africaines, 15, No. 5. 1975Perrois, L. Statuaire fang, (Paris, 1972)Perrois, L. Sculpture traditionelle du Gabon, (Paris, 1977)Perrois, L. 'Arts du Gabon, Les arts plastiques du Bassin de l'Ogoue', Arts d'Afrique Noire. 1979Perrois, L. Arts ancestral du Gabon dans les collections du Musee, Barbier-Mueller, (Geneva, 1985)Phillips, T, (ed.) Africa, The Art of a Continent, (Munich, 1995)Roy, C. Art and Life in Africa, (Iowa City, 1992)Schmalenbach, W. African Art from the Barbier-Mueller Collection,(Geneva,1988)Tessmann, G. Die Pangwe, (Berlin and New York, 1913(1972))


From the Collection of Robert Pearson, Denver, Colorado

Bob Pearson began collecting African art later in his life. He was an engineer, inveterate climber, and long-time collector of books and paintings. Spurred by the Douglas Society at the Denver Museum of Art, and his friendship with noted collector George Heggarty, he began building an enormous, eclectic collection. His African art library grew to several hundred books. He loved textiles and “material culture”-things which had domestic use, like spoons, cups, stools, and chairs, as well as masks and carvings. His collection included items from more than thirty African countries, and his fine eye gave him pieces ranging from a golddust scale to huge Dogon figural ladders. Africa Direct is honored to have been chosen to sell them.