The Collection

The Punu and ambete


Punu, Gabon
Wood, Height 100cm

The three part coiffure and the image of a snake on top point to the Punu origin. The surface is heavily encrusted with a thick layer of patina, which adds to the rustic look, but also removes some of the finer detail. The wood is quite heavy and the door is in excellent condition. The carved elements are quite detailed, but then some of it is not clearly visible with the encrusted surface.


( night mask)
Soft wood, Height 35cm

Punu masks generally have white faces and represent female ancestors. Black face masks are most unusual. They are not worn during daylight and are only used for important judiciary functions, or during epidemics, severe  ill health, or pointing out the guilty during witchcraft sessions. This very rare and unusual old mask has an extremely elaborate hair style. Very good condition. Another favourite of mine.


Height 83cm

Painted with white, red, and black pigments. Punu statues are quite rare. They were kept as prestige objects and used during magical ceremonies. Good condition.


Height 143cm

Painted with red and black pigment. Very large cavities at the back to hold large bone or other magic fragments. These unusually large statues were probably kept outside the chief’s house, used as witnesses at ceremonies, and also put into the fields during times of severe drought.


Height 82cm
Wood, copper, iron, white pigment

The Ambete are related to the Kota, whose influence can be seen in the extensive usage of copper sheeting on this statue. This is probably a female ancestor statue. The abundance of jewellery and the very elaborate hairstyle are indications of a very important ancestor.  Excellent condition.


Ambete, Gabon
Wood, straw, cowrie shells, Height 80cm

Very old natural patina. The opening at the back is closed with a perfectly fitted door. The cavity was used to hold bones and other personal belongings of the deceased. This figure was “dressed up” with a raffia skirt for a ceremonial occasion, something that seems to have become a tradition with households that still honour the old traditions. The left leg at one stage had to be re-attached to the body, which meant it had to be cleaned of the encrusted patina.


Punu, Gabon
Wood, colour pigments, Height 102cm

Splayed male. The male and female granary doors above were made as a pair. Both are in excellent condition, probably from the 1950’s.


Punu, Gabon
Wood, colour pigments, Height 110cm

Splayed female. The female figure is very composed and serene, while the male figure is quite cheerful and even cheeky, poking out his tongue to the viewer 


Punu, Congo Brazzaville
Wood, Colour pigments, Height 200cm

Male and females in typical Punu splayed position, holding very large snakes above their heads.


Punu, Congo Brazzaville
Wood, Colour pigments, Height 200cm

These doors are from the village of Niari in Congo Brazzaville, very much the original homeland of the Punu before most moved further north to Gabon. Both doors used to be in the rectangular house of the Temple of Bwiti, located in the Forest of Divinie.


Punu, Congo Brazzaville
Wood, colour pigments, Height 200cm

Males and females in typical Punu splayed position, holding rattles.


Punu, Congo Brazzaville
Wood, Colour pigments, Height 200cm

These doors were originally used in a Bwini temple in the vicinity of Bouenza.

ancestor statue

Punu, Gabon
wood, Height 53cm

Punu artists carved small statues of female ancestor with similar features as the famed Punu masks. The statues were kept next to the reliquaries as prestige objects. This carving is really beautifully finished with raised scarifications and white and black pigment to enhance the visual impact. This statue like so many comes directly from Nji Idriss Mbombo, the father of my good friend Abraham, collected on his travels between the 1950’s and the 1980’s. 

reliquary statue

mitsogho, Gabon
wood,raffia, feathers,pigment, Height 45cm

The Mitsogho are related to the Punu and the Fang. This statue  was used to consult with the ancestral spirits. A hole was made through the neck area into which a wooden stick is inserted. Palm oil was poured into the hole and then gauged with the stick. The oil would have come into contact with the reliquary pieces at the bottom of the basket. The colour the oil had changed to would then be interpreted by an initiate and conveyed to the community.


Punu, Congo Brazzaville
Height 200cm

Besides the traditional male and female figures displayed, extra female faces  were added  at the top and bottom sections as additional emphasis. This door comes from Bouenza in Congo- Brazzaville. 

male statue

ambete, Gabon
wood, pigment Height 62cm

The Ambete live close to the border with the Republik of Congo. They are related to the Kota and have also been influenced by the Fang and of course their neighbours the Punu. This statue was placred next to the reliquaries.

reliquary basket

mitsogho, gabon
Wood,bones,horns, raffia, Height 37cm

The Mitsogho live in remote dense forest areas and make their living from fishing and agriculture. This Janus style head shows the typical open mouth with prominent teeth and the round eyes. 

mukudj mask

Punu, Gabon
Height 25cm

Mukudj masks are representing especially beautiful women from the past and the present. Most Punu masks share similar features of the high coiffure, domed forehead, pursed lips, and the raised scarifications on the temples and forehead.

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