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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Ibibio : Ibibio Wooden Polychrome Face Mask
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Ibibio Wooden Polychrome Face Mask - PF.4989
Origin: Southeastern Nigeria
Circa: 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 8" (20.3cm) high x 6" (15.2cm) wide
Collection: African
Medium: Wood and Feather

Location: United States
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The Ibibio have no centralized government, so their daily life is controlled by secret societies. One of the most important, the ekpo society, plays an active role in political, judicious, and religious affairs of a village. They are also in charge of the ancestor cult and initiation of young people. For the all important ritual of initiation, two basic types of masks are used-the idiok, representing wandering spirits; and mfon depicting spirits that have reached paradise. An initiate who wears a mask, such as this dramatic example, personifies the spirit who has returned to earth for a brief time.

A wide grinning mouth exposing large white teeth is nearly as striking as the vivid red eyes. They are carved in the center of the eye sockets leaving the edges exposed, creating an effect which makes the eyes seem almost three- dimensional. The facial features are quite realistic, the intense stare and persona of the mask suggests it is of the idiok category. Blue and white thread in the small holes show how it was attached to the wearer, probably sewn to a cloth covering. The intent of this mask was to give expression to a spirit, and capture its character and personality while still being identifiably human. In this respect the artist has certainly succeeded.
- (PF.4989)


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