Culture: Fang (also called Fãn)
Place of Origin: Gabon, Cameroon or Equatorial Guinea
The people that are called “Fang” in the geographic or ethnographic literature number 800,000 and constitute a vast mosaic of village communities, established in a large zone of Atlantic equatorial Africa comprising Cameroon, continental equatorial Guinea and nearly the whole north of Gabon, on the right bank of the Ogowe River.
Historically the Fang were itinerant, and it is relatively recently that they have settled into this broad area. The migratory existence of the Fang prohibited the creation of ancestral shrines at gravesites. Instead, the remains of the important dead, in the form of the skull and other bones, were carried from place to place in a cylindrical bark box. The great rain forest region where the Fang settled is a plateau of middle altitude, cut by innumerable waters with falls and rapids rendering navigation for the most part impossible, and with a climate typically equatorial. Fang are principally hunters but also agriculturists. Their social structure is based on a clan, a group of individuals with a common ancestor, and on the family.
The Fang used masks in their secret societies. Fang masks, such as those worn by itinerant troubadours and for hunting and punishing sorcerers, are painted white with facial features outlined in black. Typical are large, elongated masks covered with kaolin and featuring a face that was usually heart-shaped with a long, fine nose. Apparently it has been linked with the dead and ancestors, since white is their color.
An older traditional Fang mask that originates from the rain forests of Gabon on the western coast of Africa and has been handcrafted out of wood. The Fang people use masks when playing out traditional ceremonies such as weddings and funerals and will often been seen in traditional dance wearing masks when they are persecuting wrongdoers. A majority of Fang tribesmen and women live in the equatorial rain forest in Gabon and have passed down their skill and traditions of the myths of the masks from generation to generation.
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