Ijo Headdress Mask Cross River Nigeria
The most well-known of the arts of the Ijo are the famed, abstract "water spirit" masks, which usually include a human-form face displayed amidst an array of references to important totem animals, like crocodiles and hippopotamus. These masks are startling and fascinating, with levels of abstraction unique for an area known for the realistic depiction of the human form. Though their neighbors the Igbo craft similar water-spirit masks, the form certainly does not dominate their artistic output like it does the Ijo. Ijo water-spirit masks, usually worn on top of the head and extending horizontally, are used in a variety of functions, from ancestor worship, to religious and magical ceremonies. The realm of the water-spirits is important to the Ijo, who believe that is where both the unborn and the dead reside. They do use basic human forms, though these are found most-often on decorative panels instead of stand-alone statues. These panels serve a protective function wherever they are displayed. These are rare however, and found mostly in the western fringes of Ijo territory. Despite its relative rarity, the striking qualities of Ijo sculpture make it highly-valued by collectors and museums.
Approximate Age: Mid 20th Century