Punu masks represent the idealized beauty of Punu women, and should only be carved by Punu men.
They are portrayed with their traditional high-domed hairstyle, diamond- shaped scarification marks on their forehead and they often have eyes that display oriental characteristics. The elaborate Punu hairstyles suggest that the wearer is wealthy as her hair has not been flattened by the need to carry goods.
Sometimes Punu masks are painted white with kaolin clay to represent the spirits of dead ancestors during funerals.
Since the 18th century, the Punu have lived on the left bank of the Upper Ngoume River in Gabon. They are one of a group of tribes known as the Shira who originally came from the Luango kingdom of Angola.
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