Punu crest mask or reliquary head

aaaMystrySolvd-1050Q:  This is my Punu crest mask/reliquary head.  In the research that I have done, I have not seen anything quite like this one, i.e., the chin strap and mouth shape.  Any information that you or your readers could provide would be appreciated.  This mask was purchased in the Philadelphia area in the early ’90s.  Dan, 1050

A:  Let’s try to help Dan. He thinks he has a really nice Punu artifact. But there is no provenance. The best I can tell him is that I enjoy the way it looks. Surely their are viewers who can tell him a bit more.


  • Aaron

    It’s clearly Punu influenced, but it might be either Igbo or Idoma from Nigeria. I’m not an expert in African masquerade, but I haven’t seen Punu crests before, whereas both Igbo and Idoma peoples use them commonly.

    • Dan

      Aaron, thank you for your comment. In my research, I did see similarities with Idoma crests. I am fairly new to this and am just learning some of the intricacies of identifying these pieces. The Punu and Idoma aren’t close geographically, so I wonder how a piece like this gets created with those two specific influences. In my opinion, it is a powerful piece, more than just tourist art. It seems to be the work of a skilled carver. I have seen other pieces that seem to be hybrids and I am trying to understand their significance and place in the African art universe.

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