The Kwele Tribe


The Kwele occupy a great forest region on the borders of Gabon, Cameroon and the Republic of Congo.  Their village communities comprised a number of lineages and were governed in the usual way for “headless” equatorial societies, that is in a diffuse and more or less informal manner.

To reinforce unity, the Kwele have the beete cult. The beete ritual, which lasts for a week, would open with the departure of men into the forest to hunt antelope, whose flesh, seasoned with medicines, had to be eaten at a meal at the closing ceremony. During the hunt, women and children stayed in the village; and after one or two days, ekuk masks would leave the forest, enter the village, and invite the people to come dance and sing. Ekuk means both protective forest spirit and children of beete. It displays a flat surface and often has a heart-shaped face, a triangular nose, coffee bean eyes, and a small or non-existent mouth. Such masks represents the antelope. The faces are usually painted in white kaolin earth, a pigment associated by the Kwele with light and clarity, the two essential factors in the fight against evil.




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