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Crest mask
Date: Late 19th-early 20th century
Medium: Wood, abrus seeds, pigment, plant fiber, resin
Dimensions: H x W x D: 52.7 x 29.2 x 18.4 cm (20 3/4 x 11 1/2 x 7 1/4 in.)
Credit Line: Gift of Milton F. and Frieda Rosenthal
Geography: Kaduna State, Kanfanchan plateau region, Nigeria
Object Number: 85-13-1
Search Terms:
Male use
Exhibited: ongoing exhibition

Among the mostly Islamized Koro peoples, who live on the Kafanchan plateau in Central Nigeria, highly abstract and nonrepresentational masks are used in masquerades celebrating the seasons of planting and harvesting. An example similar to this one, collected by Roy Sieber in 1958, was called ngambak, or "man with bowed legs." Sieber reported that such crests served as village guardians. William Fagg also witnessed masquerades employing this type of mask in 1949 in a Ham village. According to Fagg, all the people of the Kafan-chan plateau, the Ham, Koro, Kagoro and Kamantan, practiced the same types of masked dances. The Koro, who were the most populous, probably produced masks for the other groups. The serated edges bordering the crest and bands of burnished ridges give emphasis to the form. In masquerades, it is set on top of the dancer's head. A woven, tentlike robe covers the dancer's head and body. Some dancers represent the ancestral mothers who give a welcoming embrace to other dancers.

Cap covered with abrus seeds with a detachable wood top pierced cylinder supporting inverted U "arms" and triangular "head," with traces of red pigment and rows of linear patterns.

Barbier-Mueller collection, Geneva, -- to 1980

Milton F. and Frieda Rosenthal, Westchester, New York, 1980 to 1985

General Exhibition, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., October 7, 2019–ongoing

National Museum of African Art. 1999. Selected Works from the Collection of the National Museum of African Art. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, p. 97, no. 66.

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