late 19th Century
West Africa, Nigeria
Ejagham, Akparabong Clan
Wood, skin, bamboo, pigment
17 11/16 x 6 11/16 x 6 11/16 in. (45 x 17 x 17 cm)
The Ejagham (Ekoi) live in the Cross River area of southeast Nigeria and western Cameroon. The Ejagham and other Cross River ethnic groups are unique in their use of antelope skin to cover their masks and headdresses. The particular facial markings and hairstyle of this example date it to the late 19th century. These skin-covered masks and dance crests were used originally by associations of warriors and hunters as mimetic substitutes for the heads of defeated enemies. This explains in part their high degree of naturalism compared with other African masks. The use of skin as a covering also relates to the Ejagham belief in power through metamorphosis and transformation, which involved the transfer of the power of the slain enemy to the warrior owning the mask. With the cessation of warfare under the 20th-century colonial occupation, skin-covered heads began to be used in a variety of other dance contexts.
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), 79, number 187.
© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White, 2008.
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“Mask Headdress,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed April 5, 2020, http://carlos.digitalscholarship.emory.edu/items/show/7973.
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