The Fang people used
masks in their secret societies. Members of this male society wore the
Ngil masks during the initiation of new members and the persecution of
wrongdoers. Masqueraders, clad in raffia costumes and attended by
helpers, would materialize in the village after dark, illuminated by
The Fang tribe are spread over a vast
area along the Atlantic coast line of equatorial Africa and can be found
in Cameroon equatorial Guinea
and Gabon namely along the
bank of the Ogowe river.
such as those worn by itinerant troubadours and for hunting and
punishing sorcerers, are painted white with facial features outlined in
black. Typical are large elongated masks covered with kaolin and
featuring a face that was usually heart-shaped with a long fine nose.
Apparently it have been linked with the dead, since white is their
color. The Ngontang dance society also used white masks, sometimes in
the form of a four-sided helmet shape with bulging forehead and eyebrows
in heart-shaped arcs.
or red antelope, was connected with initiation that lasted several
months, the masks used during this ritual had long horns. Passport
masks, were attached to arms of the maskers.
great rain forest region in the Fang territory is a plateau of middle
altitude, with innumerable waters with falls and rapids rendering
navigation for the most part impossible, and with a climate typically
They are principally hunters but also agriculturists. Their social
structure is based on a clan, a group of individuals with a common
ancestor. The ensemble of Fang peoples practice a cult devoted to
ancestor lineages, the bieri,
whose aim is to both protect themselves from the deceased and to recruit
and aid in matters of daily life. This familial cult does not monopolize
the Fang’s religious universe, for it coexists with other beliefs and
rituals of a more collective character.
bieri, gave rise to remarkable wooden sculpture. The bieri, or ancestor
figure, would be consulted when the village was to change location, or
when a new crop was planted, during a palaver, or before going hunting,
fishing, or to war. But once separated from the reliquary chest, the
sculpted object would lose its sacred value and could be destroyed. The
ritual consisted of prayers, libations, and sacrifices offered to the
ancestor, whose scull would be rubbed with powder and paint each time.
With its large head, long body, and short extremities, the Fang bieri
had the proportion of a newborn, thus emphasizing the group’s
continuity with its ancestor and with the three classes of the society:
the “not-yet-born,” the living, and the dead. The relics were
essentially skull fragments, or sometimes complete skulls, jawbones,
teeth and small bones. The bieri also served for therapeutic rituals
and, above all, for the initiation of young males during the great so