Our page banner is a detail of a 16th century Edo pendant mask, carved in ivory, from the Court of Benin, Nigeria.
Photo: (Creative Commons) © Opal Art Seekers 4 (KaDeWeGirl)
The Kwele believe in witchcraft and blame all their personal and social ills on its influence. The Kwele protect themselves against the power of witchcraft with the 'beete' ritual.
The 'beete' is a ritual that involves purification by the spirits who are represented in the form of 'ekuk' masks. 'Ekuk' means the 'spirits of the forest' and the 'children of the beete'. Kwele masks represent the antelope whose flesh was eaten at the end of the 'beete' ritual.
Kwele masks have two large horns which sometimes encircle and frame the face. Areas of the face are often painted with white kaolin clay, the color of the spirits. Kwele 'ekuk' masks are beautifully stylised with a heart shaped face, almond shaped eyes and a small or non-existent mouth.
The Kwele occupy a huge area of forested land that stretches across the borders of Gabon, Cameroon and the Congo.