An interesting Urhobo mask from Nigeria. The elongated oval shape tapers at the chin, the facial features are highly abstract and mysterious. The head is lengthened by a triangular headdress. The ornamental bands run vertically on the forehead and over the bridge of the nose. The reddish-brown patina is fragmented due to age, white kaolin pigments on the eyelids.
In her review of a closely related Urhobo mask in the Musée Barbier-Mueller in Geneva, Hahner-Herzog (1997: pl. 46) notes: “The works of the Urhobo, a small Edo-speaking ethnic group living in the northwestern part of the Niger Delta, are little known but of high aesthetic quality. They include clay and wooden sculptures honouring ancestors and supernatural forces, as well as masks associated with water and earth spirits. […]
“The available information on the meaning of the mask is varied, but points to an underlying connection with Ohworu, a powerful water spirit. On the one hand, the mask is described as one of the ‘children of the spirit’ (emedjo) who appear when the Niger River reaches its highest level to bring the ‘blessing of deep water’ to the villages. On the other hand, this type of mask is said to represent a ‘girl with a youthful body’ (omotokpokpo). The latter, according to Perkins Foss, implies a girl of marriageable age (opha) who is under the protection of the water spirits and, when presented as a bride, wears an elaborate hairstyle, as indicated in the mask by the gracefully curved structure and horn-like appendages.”
Lit: Sotheby, catalogue text.
2.000 – 2.400,- Euro
Height: 35 cm
Weight: 4 kg