Fang Helmet Mask

Type: Helmet Mask
Exhibits: Cycle of Life
Tribes: Fang peoples
Location: Gabon
Period: 20th Century
Materials: Pigments, Tuft of Feathers, Wood
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Helmet masks Ngon-Tang personify “young white dead women” returning from the land of the dead beyond the sea. Ngon-Tang masks were worn at Fang festivals, celebrations and ceremonies, such as births, deaths and funeral ceremonies, and at important village councils. Before the performances, the mask wearer would undergo the traditional initiation rite. He was accompanied by a singer who would undergo a similar preparatory rite. This helmet mask has a Janus-faced carving (with two faces looking in different directions), which is well known in African art. It refers to heightened vision and an ability to see beyond this world to the world of the dead ancestors' spirits, and the valuable ability to see from both sides simultaneously, as well as guarding from unseen supernatural forces. L. Perrois has suggested that “Feather ornaments were worn by dancers and ritual specialists, responsible for invoking the ancestors during rites, to designate the presence of the sacred”. The mask gives a serene, calm and dignified impression, referring to Fang moral values and the idealized social order.



Kan and R. Sieber, African Masterworks in the Detroit Institute of Arts, 1995, p.113; L. Perrois,Fang, 2006, p.128.

Fang Helmet Mask
Fang Helmet Mask