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Crest mask
Date: Early 19th to mid-20th century
Medium: Wood
Dimensions: H x W x D: 31 x 8.8 x 9 cm (12 3/16 x 3 7/16 x 3 9/16 in.)
Credit Line: Gift of Walt Disney World Co., a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company
Geography: Nigeria
Object Number: 2005-6-86
Search Terms:
Exhibited: Currents: Water in African Art

The lives and culture of the Ijo revolve around the many waterways of the Lower Niger Delta region. There is a widespread belief in water spirits who are invoked in masquerades featuring carved wooden masks that are usually worn on top of the head or on the forehead. According to one myth, the masks originated when a woman who had been kidnapped by water spirits returned to her people with the claim that she had seen beneath the water.

Wood face mask or headdress in dark black or brown with signs of wear showing lighter wood or pigment. The face is long and curved into a bow shape with a helmet-like section on top. The mask is very angular with a pointed chin and open mouth and carved scarification across the cheeks and under the eyes and at temples. The mask has prominently carved eyebrows and eyelids and the top section has deeply carved rectangular recesses.

Currents: Water in African Art, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., June 2016-ongoing



African Vision: The Walt Disney-Tishman African Art Collection, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., February 15, 2007-March 31, 2009



For Spirits and Kings: African Art from the Paul and Ruth Tishman Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1981


Jacob, Alain. 1976. Statuaire de l'Afrique Noire. Paris: C.P.I.P., p. 54.



Kreamer, Christine Mullen, Bryna Freyer and Andrea Nicolls. 2007. African Vision: The Walt Disney-Tishman African Art Collection. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, pp. 174-175, no. 56.



Vogel, Susan (ed). 1981. For Spirits and Kings: African Art from the Paul and Ruth Tishman Collection. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 149-150, no. 87.


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