Ekoi Head Crest, Efut-Ibibio Group, Cross River Region, Nigeria
height 19in (48.3cm)
Wood, animal skin, kaolin, metal, fiber
Henri Kamer, Paris and New York
Private Collection, New York
A very fine example with the wooden-form head with multi-horns (representing the hairstyle), covered overall with stretched animal skin; the well-defined, extremely realistic face highlighted with kaolin on the eyes and inset metal teeth; the woven basketry neck and head cap attached below showing rich patina though much use; glossy surface overall.
"In the southeastern forest region of Nigeria, village groupings are small and politically decentralized. Headdresses covered with leather are made by many different peoples living in villages along the Cross River and in Cameroon. These exceptional headdresses are owned by associations whose members are men or women of the same generation; membership is often further restricted to those who have performed certain feats or are proficient in particular skills. In the past, for example, there were associations of hunters who had killed leopards. The headdresses, which bear the same name as the society that owns them, are worn during funerals and initiations. Some are startlingly naturalistic and may be portraits of known individuals; others are highly stylized. There are three overall types: helmet masks that cover the wearer's head entirely, masks that cover only the face, and headdresses that... are attached to basketry caps worn on top of the head." (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City)