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This mask comes from the Kwela people who live within the great equatorial rain forests of Gabon. Kwela masks exhibit a wide range of styles, colours and uses. The most common Kwela masks are small, heart-shaped faces painted in white kaolin, with almond eyes, a triangular nose and usually no mouth. This more unusual Kwela masks features six stylized eyes – an indication that the wearer of the mask is seeing into the unknown. The masks are used during the ‘Beete’ ritual when protective forest spirits are invoked to come into the village and use their powers to shelter the community from hardship and calamity. Kwela masks are generally not worn on the face of the dancers but carried on top of poles and shown to the spectators during ceremonies.
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