Maiden Spirit Helmet Mask, Agbogho Mmuo



Maiden Spirit Helmet Mask, Agbogho Mmuo


Ceremonail costume, effigy, mask


late 19th-early 20th Century


West Africa, Nigeria
Igbo, northern


Wood, pigment
13 3/4 x 7 7/8 x 7 7/8 in. (34.9 x 20 x 20 cm)

Object Number



Maiden spirit (agbogho mmuo) masquerades perform annually during the dry season in the Nri-Awka area of northern Igboland. At these performances men dance as adolescent girls, miming and exaggerating their beauty and comportment.

They also sing tributes to both real and spirit maidens:

Mmanwu si n'igwe Masked Spirit from the sky
Udemu na lenu My fame is potent

These masks exaggerate the smallness of a young girl's ideal features while the whiteness of her complexion is likened to "the purity of white chalk," a substance used for ritually marking the body in both West Africa and the African Diaspora. The white pigment also serves as a ground for the elaborate uli decorations painted on young Igbo women's skin. Some maiden spirit masks, such as this one, have elaborate coiffures, embellished with representations of hair combs modeled after late nineteenth century ceremonial hairstyles.

Credit Line

Ex coll. William S. Arnett


Art of Nigeria from the William S. Arnett Collection, Michael C. Carlos Museum, October 15, 1994 - January 2, 1995
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), 21, number 42.|
Michael C. Carlos Museum Handbook (Atlanta: Michael C. Carlos Museum, 1996), 102.


© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White, 2011.
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“Maiden Spirit Helmet Mask, Agbogho Mmuo,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed April 5, 2020,

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