Epa Helmet Mask
Epa Helmet Mask
Ceremonial costume, effigy, mask, sculpture
early 20th Century
West Africa, Nigeria
Yoruba, Ekiti region, town of Efon-Alaiye
Wood, pigment, encrustation
41 x 14 15/16 x 12 1/2 in. (104.2 x 38 x 31.8 cm)
Epa headdress masks perform in biannual festivals held in Ekiti, Igbomina, and Ijesa communities of northern Yorubaland. During the Epa festival the history of a town is celebrated with the display of numerous masks. Each headdress is a memorial to the ancestors of the family that owns it. The lower, helmet-shaped portion of the mask depicts Eshu, the god who mediates between humans and other gods, while the superstructure depicts a particular individual, carved in a more naturalistic style. This Epa headdress makes dual reference to a farmer and a warrior/hunter, both essential characters in the founding and prosperity of a community. The equestrian figure conveys the warrior's military authority and its broad-brimmed hat is of a type worn by farmers as protection from the sun. Epa masks are also placed in familial shrines as objects of private devotion. The overall black encrustation of this headdress comes from repeated sacrifices and food offerings over many years.
Gift of William S. Arnett
Art of Nigeria from the William S. Arnett Collection, Michael C. Carlos Museum, October 15, 1994 - Jan. 2, 1995
Henry John Drewal, African Artistry: Technique and Aesthetics in Yoruba Sculpture (Atlanta: The High Museum of Art, 1980), 88, number 155.
© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White, 2008.
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“Epa Helmet Mask,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed February 22, 2020, http://carlos.digitalscholarship.emory.edu/items/show/8148.
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