Mvudi (Celebratory Mask)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:

The Aduma are a small ethnic group located on the upper Ogooué River in southeastern Gabon to which the mvudi mask belongs. Oral traditions about the origin of the mask make mention of the Mount Ngouadi region in the Ivindo Basin, a place where various Kota ethnic groups could both congregate and disperse. Mvudi are used by other ethnic groups throughout the Upper Ogooué, as well, including the Bawandji, Kanigui, Ndassam Wumbu, Nzadi, and Teke. Although the precise origin is unclear, the Aduma are thought to have originated the mvudi masks.

Among the Aduma, mvudi are used in various types of events and rituals. Mvudi appear in initiation ceremonies such as the Bwiti ritual. They are also used in celebratory dances associated with major events, during which the masked dancer would emerge from the mountain mists at dawn or dusk. Mvudi are also said to be used to worship ancestor relics and relics of chiefs.

Distinguishing Features

  • Abstract and geometric
  • Long, shield-like panel
  • Facial features restricted to upper third of panel
    • Rounded, visor-like, and protruding forehead
    • Beetling brow
    • Long narrow 'nose'
    • Eyes and mouth only indicated by small slits
  • Panel narrows to a point at the lower end or 'chin'
  • Polychromatic
    • Panel divided into four quadrants
    • Two quadrants painted red, other two painted white

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