Wood, pigment, reed.
Private Estate Collection - California, USA.
The Ekoi, also known as Ejagham, are from the southeastern region of Nigeri. They are a large ethnic group consisting of several sub-ethnic groups. Headdresses covered in leather are created in the Ekoi regions along the Cross River in Nigeria and Cameroon. This art form of the Ekoi or Ejagham is connected to the institution of the Ntoon.
This particular example was made by the Ejagham peoples and is characteristic of a genre popular across the region. There are three overall types: helmet masks that cover the wearer's head entirely, masks that cover only the face, and headdresses that, like this one, are attached to basketry caps worn on top of the head. The headdresses, which bear the same name as the society that owns them, are worn during funerals and initiations.
These exceptional works were owned by members of associations, 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. In the past, for example, there were associations of hunters who had killed dangerous animals. Headdresses were worn for both festive and important ceremonial occasions. To make a headdress, the artist carves the form from a single piece of wood and covers it with soft untanned antelope skin that has been soaked in water for several days. He stretches, binds, and pegs the skin into place until it dries and stiffens. Eyes, scarifications, and hair are often carved separately and pegged into the finished piece. Before it is worn, the headdress is painted or colored, then adorned with porcupine quills, feathers, or feathered rods stuck into holes at the top.