TITLE: Kwele Antelope
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Democratic Republic of Congo
DESCRIPTION: Antelope spirit mask
CATALOG ID: AFCD016
CEREMONY: Be’ete Society
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin clay
The Kwele, also known as Kwese, people of Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo now live between the Dja and Ivindo rivers. Social control is exercised by the Be’ete Secret Society, which uses masks to adult initiation rituals, funerals, and protection of the village from malicious spirits. The masks embody protective bush spirits, with the antelope a dominant presence among them. Kaolin clay is nearly always used in Kwele masks, because its white color has spiritual meaning to the Kwele.
This specific mask is more naturalistic than most Kwele antelope masks. More commonly, the masks are highly abstract, flat (plank-shaped), and with slit eyes.