Fang People, Gabon: Ngontang mask featuring four elongated faces. Early 20th century. Wood, carved in a hollowed, helmet-like form with four abstracted faces encircling the perimeter. Overall the form has a dark stain patina punctuated by lighter kaolin-covered facial planes and triangular decorations. The eyes are defined by shallow incisions, the protruding lips are defined by horizontal grooves, and the foreheads are incised with scarification marks. The crest of the mask is adorned with a cluster of feathers. The lower rim of the mask is incised with holes for headdress/ costume attachments.
The white faces on ngon-tang masks personify young women upon their return from the land of the dead beyond the sea. The Fang believe that white is the color of death and of ancestral spirits.
Multiple-faced masks suggest the ability to see both the realms of the living and of the dead.