The Ekoi headpiece is a well known and documented entry in African art, and while its features are similar, this mask is remarkably different. This is a helmet mask in Janus, and the two faces are expressing very different emotions. Both mouths display white, distinct teeth.
A number of different groups living within close proximity to the Cross River share language, political and religious structures which influences their arts. Though generally ruled by a local elder Cross River societies depend to a great extent upon a number of men’s secret societies to regulate the community and to instruct and initiate men into various levels of their organization. The Ejagham identified as the Ekoi in the past have a men’s secret society called Ngbe, whose members are known for wearing large skin covered masks worn over costumes covering the body. Each Ngbe chapter would have a lodge within which a range of ritual equipment was kept including masks. Ngbe membership was originally identified with a warrior’s society on the Cameroon side of the Cross River region, however today Ngbe members are engaged in social control and political activities. Ngbe members use ritual equipment to initiate new members and celebrates their lives during funerals. Crest masks such as this one were worn on the top of the head attached to a basketry cap.
13 1/2" tall
This old mask shows age, some discoloration and is missing hair, but overall in wonderful condition.
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