Face Mask (Mfon Ekpo)



Face Mask (Mfon Ekpo)


Effigy, mask, sculpture


20th Century


West Africa, Nigeria, Cross River
Ibibio, Annang


Wood, fiber, pigment
9 15/16 x 7 3/16 x 3 1/4 in. (25.2 x 18.3 x 8.3 cm)

Object Number



This mask represents an idealized woman. Danced only by initiated men, its performances express concepts about ideal womanhood, physical beauty, and moral human behavior. The Mfon ekpo mask represents a physically beautiful and morally pure young woman, signified here by the oval face, lustrous skin, and tripartite braided hairstyle. Meaning "beautiful soul", Mfon ekpo is danced by members of the Ekpo society. She embodies the benevolent, feminine character of the ancestors and performs in opposition to a malevolent, masculine character, Idiok ekpo, who wears a darkened mask with distorted facial features. Together, they represent the duality of the human spirit.

Credit Line

Ex coll. William S. Arnett


MCCM Permanent Collection Reinstallation, 2008 - December 1, 2014
Marcilene K. Wittmer and William Arnett, Three Rivers of Nigeria: Art of the Lower Niger, Cross, and Benue from the Collection of William and Robert Arnett (Atlanta: High Museum of Art, 1978), 65, number 147.


© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White, 2012.
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On View



“Face Mask (Mfon Ekpo),” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed June 3, 2020, http://carlos.digitalscholarship.emory.edu/items/show/7149.

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