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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Igbo, Urhobo : Igbo Wooden Polychrome Headdress Mask
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Igbo Wooden Polychrome Headdress Mask - PF.4770
Origin: Southeastern Nigeria
Circa: 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 28.5" (72.4cm) high x 11" (27.9cm) wide
Collection: African
Medium: Wood, Paint

Location: United States
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The Igbo (also spelled Ibo) world is comprised of the physical and the non-physical, of human beings and spirits involved in a complex interplay with each other, necessitating that a careful balance be maintained between the two elements. The afterlife is considered an extension of the “real” world, and this close proximity means the ancestors are always watching the living. In order to placate them, elaborate rituals and dance ceremonies serve as a physical “medium” to communicate respect, homage and atonement. This wonderful mask/headdress is intended to be the incarnation of an unspecified spirit of the dead, brought to “life” through the ritual of dance, and by the sculptor's inventiveness. The Igbo have a great love of color, amply displayed here in a beautiful array of shades of primarily brown, red and white. The top section, presumably a male, wears a sort of apron containing three mirrors. This fits onto the bottom portion that is carved with three life-size faces. The Igbo use mirrors to confuse spirits so they will strike the mirror-image of the soul and not the soul of a living person. We may speculate that the top figure represents a human being exercising mastery over the spirit world below, controlling events through intelligence and proper observances. All of this is brought together in a work of art bursting with life and mystery. - (PF.4770)


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