Ngi mask

Exhibits: Ancestor Cult
Tribes: Fang peoples
Location: Rio Muni, Equatorial Guinea
Period: Mid 20th Century
Materials: Bark, White Kaolin

In the anti-witchcraft societies of Ngi, leadership was usually given to the strongest and most energetic man, called nom-ngi (the old of ngi). This leader was rarely an old man, but usually a vigorous charismatic young man, who in the old days, during the ritual rites, tended to command with harshness. He was seen to have the powers of life and death, due to his ability to trace and eradicate evil witchcraft. The nom ngi was the only person, the Fang said, "before whom men fell on their back begging for their lives... In the course of ngi ceremony, the authority of nom ngi was such that men hid from him and his assistants, for they carried machetes and wounded anyone in their presence or was judged to be inimical to cult purpose” (Fernandez,181). This elongated mask has an especially serene expression accentuated by its simple lines, reducing it to its essential features. The disproportionally elongated narrow concave heart-shaped face is contrasted with the enormous convex forehead forming a sort of helmet, allowing the nom-ngi to set the mask on his head. Ngi masks were outlawed in 1910 by the French colonials following a series of ritual murders. This is especially a very fine old piece.


J. Fernandez, Bwiti: ethnography of religious imagination in Africa, 1982, p.181, p. 255

Ngi mask
Ngi mask
Ngi mask
Ngi mask