The Kwele believe that unexplained deaths, epidemic smallpox, and other mysterious threats to the well-being of individuals or the community are caused by witchcraft. Witches are believed to live in male and female hosts, from which they emerge at night to feed upon the internal organs of their victims. The antidote to witchcraft is the beete ritual, which includes masked performances. Masks used in this ritual represent different protective forest spirits. Most of the masks have white faces. The Kwele consider white to be a powerful color symbolizing light and clarity, two essential weapons in the fight against witchcraft. Ekuk means both "forest spirit" and "children of beete." The masks are hung in Kwele houses and worn during dances related to initiation ceremonies. Their function was to "warm up" the village atmosphere in order to activate the beneficial forces. The wearer of theekuk mask wears a wide skirt of fibers. This mask, with two horns, represents the antelope or the ram. The Kwele are unclear about the connection between this animal and witchcraft.
Provenance: Raskin Private Collection