Four-faced helmet mask (ñgontang)


Dallas Museum of Art

Dallas Museum of Art

The Betsi and Ntumu call this type of helmet mask ñgontang, a term that is a contraction of nlo ñgon ntañga, which means "face of the daughter of the white man." When the Betsi and Ntumu peoples first encountered the Europeans, they believed the Europeans were spirits returned from the world of the dead. Introduced in the 1920s, the mask has multiple faces with eyes that see everything, and it was a ritual object that fought against malevolent forces such as witchcraft.(21) Eventually the traditional beliefs were abandoned and the masks were used for entertainment purposes (fig. 60). It is thought the ñgontang replaced the ngil mask, which policed the Fang communities and was banned by the French colonial government.

The faces on the ñgontang are not identical (see the two-dimensional rollout photograph, pp. 274-75). They have different measurements, anatomical details, and scarification. The Dallas mask has two large and two small faces. The larger faces have brows formed with perforations and a black line drawn from the forehead to the tip of the nose. The mouths on these faces differ-one is upturned in a smile while the other is pursed. The male dancer who wore the mask looked through a pair of horizontal openings carved in the bottom of the mask under one of the faces.

The Arts of Africa at the Dallas Museum of Art, cat. 101, pp. 272-275.


21. Perrois, Louis. Fang. Milan: 5 Continents Editions, 2006. pp. 45-46, 134, plate 56.

Show lessRead more


  • Title: Four-faced helmet mask (ñgontang)
  • Date Created: 1920–1940
  • Physical Dimensions: 10 3/4 × 9 1/4 × 8 3/4 in. (27.31 × 23.5 × 22.23 cm)
  • Type: Costume
  • External Link: https://www.dma.org/object/artwork/3140077/
  • Medium: Wood and pigment
  • culture: Fang peoples, Betsi or Ntumu group
  • Credit Line: Dallas Museum of Art, The Gustave and Franyo Schindler Collection of African Sculpture, gift of the McDermott Foundation in honor of Eugene McDermott