The “Ngontang” mask and dance.

Desirey Minkoh, the owner of Gabon based UIG image partner AfrikImages provides a fascinating insight into the Ngontang mask and dance and the Fang ethnic group.

“Ngontang”, which in the Fang language from which it derives its origins means “the white girl”, is a mask with several faces that represents the spirits in the form of a white woman and is worn by a dancer (mostly men) during various festive and funeral ceremonies of the Fang people.

The Fangs are an ethnic group mainly found in Central Africa and is scattered in several countries of this region, notably: in Gabon in four of the nine provinces (Woleu-Ntem, Ogooué-Ivindo, Moyen-Ogooué and Estuaire); in the south of Cameroon; in Equatorial Guinea where they are in the majority; and a few in the Congo and in São Tomé.  They speak the same language (Fang) with nuances depending on their origins and share the same habits and customs, including the Ngontang mask and dance.

It should be noted that the Ngontang mask, like most African masks, is not originally a decorative object but a divine or spiritual representation.
The Ngontang dancer must first be initiated before wearing this mask, which used to be brought out to search for evil spirits in the village, is now used for festive ceremonies (births, festivals, mourning withdrawals) where it is used as the last part of the festivities.

All photos credited to Desirey Minkoh/AfrikImages Agency/UIG

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