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Crest mask
Date: Mid-20th century
Medium: Wood, paint, nails
Dimensions: H x W x D: 14.6 x 26 x 81.6 cm (5 3/4 x 10 1/4 x 32 1/8 in.)
Credit Line: Museum purchase
Geography: Southeast region, Nigeria
Object Number: 79-13-11
Search Terms:
Exhibited: Currents: Water in African Art

Masquerades representing waterspirits are popular among the art-producing groups of Nigeria's Niger Delta region. Though playful, mischievous and linked with the wilderness, Niger Delta waterspirits are generally considered more benevolent, kind and beautiful than other denizens of the wild that inhabit dry land. Waterspirit masks take a variety of forms, either singly or in combination with the hippopotamus, crocodile, swordfish, guitarfish, smaller fish and python as well as human forms. This pink fish can be identified as a guitarfish, a type of ray, because of the gills, the mouth on the underside of the body and the shape of its fins. [Each waterspirit of the Kalabari Ijo peoples has its own festival, part of a cycle of periodic festivals.]

Wood crest mask composed of a long guitarfish surmounting a disk. The fins are made from seperate pieces of wood. The top is pink with red and white eyes with the underside white with red mouth and gills.

Warren M. Robbins, Washington, D.C., -- to 1979

Tribal Arts Gallery, New York

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

Artful Animals, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., July 1, 2009-July 25, 2010

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