The Kwele masks represent the spirits of the forest. This is a bush spirit mask, ekuk, which function as guardian spirit. The face of the masks are normally painted with white kaolin, the white represents the spirit world of light and clarity. The Kwele believe that unexplained deaths and other mysterious threats to the well-being of individuals or the community had to be ritually contained, if there was no explanation for their occurrence. The beete rites, which the Kwele organized, were a way of assembling the group’s supernatural forces to solve a crisis, reinforce unity, maintains social order and ward off danger. The practice of these rites required an adequate number of ancestral skulls.
During beete ritual, men go into the forest to hunt for antelope, during the hunt, women and children stayed in the village. While the preparations for beete ceremonies are in progress, multiple masks appear from the forest to lead the villagers and create an intense spiritual atmosphere. The beete ritual cycle includes the initiation of youths into the secret knowledge of the association; these candidates are introduced to the skulls of important past leaders as well as to masks of the beete. On the outer curve of the horns, are two small lateral faces, each with a white facial area and black forehead and horizontal eyes. These strengthen the insistent, human-like gaze of the bush spirit.
Wood , Kaolin
Height : 20″ (50.8cm) , Width : 13″ (33cm)