There’s nothing spooky about the friendly Fang

With pumpkins adorning many a supermarket shelf, deals on bumper packs of sweets and people discussing costumes on Facebook – you know Halloween has come round again! So naturally I got thinking about things that might seem a little out of the ordinary….

On first reflection some tribal masks, just like the ones we have at It’s a nomad life, can appear a little scary, but fear not, they come in peace!

My ongoing education on masks, courtesy of my partner Sam, has lead me to develop a bit of a soft spot for the Fang mask. With their long faces, often in a heart shape and with a long thin nose, up close they look quite serene!  

So, I hear you ask, where did Fang masks originate and what were masks used for? The Fang tribe are spread over a vast area along the Atlantic coast line of equatorial Africa and can be found in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. The Fang people used masks within their clans. They were collected by missionaries and explorers from the 19th century, but they may have originated hundreds of years before. The male members of society wore the masks during the initiation of new members and the persecution of wrongdoers. They also played a part in religious ceremonies used to communicate with spirits and ancestors, and to ward off evil spirits. As part of these ceremonies Masqueraders, clad in raffia costumes, would appear in the village after dark, lit only by torch light.

Sometimes the faces of the masks are painted white, with the pigment kaolin (this can make them look slightly ghost like!). And aptly it has been suggested that in doing so this links them with ancestors, since white is a colour associated with the dead.

One group of Fang people, the Ngontang, used white masks, but they appear a little different; sometimes in the form of a four-sided helmet shape with bulging forehead and eyebrows in heart-shaped arcs. The mask was used to locate or detect witchcraft, or sorcerers (those who abuse spiritual powers), but also performed at feasts, funerals, births, and possibly as part of an important communal decision. It was worn over the head or if too small….for someone with a larger than average head….on top of the head! Fang interpretation of the four faces on this mask varies from four spirits, to four stages of life to four relatives.

Some people argue that the faces depict women, despite being worn exclusively by men, while others dispute this. You can have a look at the picture and decide for yourself!

So, something that might appear a little spooky can actually be a force of good, made to fight off evil and protect you. Although, Shrewsbury, folk, as you can see I am not afraid to wear the mask – I may just be lurking behind you this Halloween with my Fang mask – ready to fight off those ghosts. Beware…..!

Happy Halloween!

Victoria Crook

It’s a nomad life

 

You can come and see the masks and lots more at It’s a nomad life, 14 Wyle Cop, Shrewsbury www.itsanomadlife.com.

@itsanomadlife

Facebook/itsanomadlife

 

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Vicky Vicky

Vicky runs local antiques business It's a nomad life with her partner Sam Handbury-Madin. The shop, which moved from Wyle Cop to Green Lane in 2015, sells Tribal and Asian art and collectables from around the world. Vicky is a Shropshire lass, who moved back to Shrewsbury in 2008 after time spent in Italy, London and St. Andrews (where she studied archaeology and ancient history). She met her husband Sam on her return and they opened It's a nomad life in 2012, combining their love of travel and old things! Vicky also works as a Freelance Fundraising Consultant.

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