This large head crest ceremonial mask has been shaped into the form of a pangolin. Carved from a lightwood and hollowed for ease of wear, the mask would have been paraded on the head of a masked dancer belonging to the Egbukere society.
Ex Private Collection, France
Estimated Period: 1960’s – 1970’s
Headdresses like these are made by members of the Egbukere society, the primary men’s association of the Ekpeye, a people in south eastern Nigeria usually included as a subgroup of the Igbo people. Until at least 1966,the Egbukere society’s major celebration each year was a three day event during the dry season, that featured feasting and vigorous dancing, with dancers wearing large headdresses.
Because the pangolin (a scaly anteater) resembles both a reptile and a mammal, the Ekpeye regard it as a special creature existing in two separate worlds and as a symbol of transformation. Each individual carved wooden scale has been inserted into the body of this pangolin mask. The Ekpeye regard the blacksmith as holding a similar place among humans: he magically transforms earth (iron ore)into metal (iron). Thus, the pangolin is the blacksmith of the animal world.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston https://ita.mfah.org/
(Click on images to enlarge)