Ekoi Ejagham Leather Wrapped Headpiece Nigeria
Leather-covered head with basketry base from the Eket or Ejagham people living in Cross River area of Cameroon and Nigeria. The head displays hanging braided hair, and the face is highlighted with white elements in the eyelids and jagged teeth. This is a classic well-used mask that would be of good addition to any collection. Headcrest masks from the Boki people, neighbors of the Ejagham, present many similarities with these Ekoi - Ejagham headpieces.
A number of different groups living within close proximity to the Cross River share language, political and religious structures which influences their arts. Though generally ruled by a local elder Cross River societies depend to a great extent upon a number of men's secret societies to regulate the community and to instruct and initiate men into various levels of their organization. The Ejagham identified as the Ekoi in the past have a men's secret society called Ngbe, whose members are known for wearing large skin covered masks worn over costumes covering the body. Each Ngbe chapter would have a lodge within which a range of ritual equipment was kept including masks. Ngbe membership was originally identified with a warrior's society on the Cameroon side of the Cross River region, however today Ngbe members are engaged in social control and political activities. Ngbe members use ritual equipment to initiate new members and celebrates their lives during funerals. Crest masks such as this one were worn on the top of the head attached to a basketry cap.