Ekoi Headdress

Ekoi (Ejagham)


In the southeastern forest region of Nigeria, the Ejagham (Ekoi) people live in a politically decentralized group of small, scattered villages with several clans unite under the leadership of a priest/chief (Ntoon). An Ntoon is responsible for the ritual activities of the community while the political functions are performed by various societies of elders and age-grade associations of young men and women. Headdresses were named and linked after the association for which they were commissioned. Members of associations are men or women of the same generation, and membership is often further restricted to those who have performed certain feats or are proficient in particular skills.

The Ekoi of Nigeria carve headdresses which tend to be covered with antelope skin; consisting of applying a fresh skin atop a wooden core, then adding hair and details. The varnished antelope skin substitutes for the previous use of human skin. The skin covering of a mask or statue served as a magical agent to invoke ancestral spirits, thus eroding the barrier between living and dead participants in communal rituals. As part of this annual ritual, the masqueraders used this statue to celebrate and initiate members of the association and also at periodic rites connected with agriculture. These headdresses were also used to watch over the behavior of members of the tribe. The wearer, with mask tied upon head and attached to a long flowing raffia costume, during certain ceremonies, would approach and challenge troublemakers and punish wrong doers openly. This is a Janus (two faced) style headdress.

Wood , Woven fibers , Antelope skin , Dark patina

Height : 29″ (73.7cm) , Width : 28″ (71.1cm)