Ijaw Fish Headcrest, Nigeria/Cameroon
length 41 3/4in (2.5cm)
Wood, cane, fiber
Private Collection, California, acquired in the 1970s
"Water deities are perceived to be the forces ultimately responsible for individual acquisition of wealth and power. Among the Kalabari, an Ijo subgroup that occupies the eastern part of the delta, one of the most important village institutions is the Ekine society, an association devoted to the dancing of masquerades representing water spirits. It is claimed that these performances imitate dances of the water spirits themselves, and the masks sometimes exit or enter from the water. Often the masquerade headpieces are designed so that the principal features face the sky and are visible to spectators only when the dancer bends forward." (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)
The present work is of long slender form with large dorsal fin and tail and rests on a cylindrical organic base; overall dark brown encrusted patina.