According to the tradition, Fang’s religion is based on the ancestors’ worship, in particular on the past leaders; even after their death, they continued to influence earthly life. Fang’s artistic productions are deeply stylized, in order to highlight the beautiful and enigmatic expressions of their masks and statues.
Typical Fang mask
The ethnic group Fang used masks in secret societies. Some were also worn by itinerant troubadours, or for hunting, or to punish sorcerers. They are generally painted white with facial features outlined; they are large, elongated and covered with kaolin, featuring a usually heart-shaped face with a long, fine nose. Apparently this has been linked with the dead and ancestors, since white is their color.
Fang Ngil mask
Fang Ngil mask from De Woleu region in north Gabon. The ‘ngil’ is a ritual society by the Fang ethnic group, formed especially during difficult moments or crisis. It is an element of cohesion between clans and tribes. The members of the ngil wear severe white mask, like this one.
Like the reliquary figures, mask once had vital religious and social importance for the ethnic group Fang, but now they are valued for their artistic qualities. Fang associate white with the world of the ancestors and the spirits. When the Fang first encountered Europeans, they thought they were dead spirits who had returned to the world of the living. It is believed that the faces on several their masks represent Europeans.