Africa

Ogoni or Ibibio mystery mask

Q: This is an Ogoni tribal helmet mask from Nigeria, West Africa. Got it at a really great price. Carved out of wood, with glass eyes, it is more unique for any other mask we have come across before. It measures almost 16″ from top to bottom x 8″ wide x 8″ deep. It has shells across the top of the eyes, with one is missing. It appears to be quite old, but not sure of age. My guess is mid century or earlier. Shaun, 1734

A: Unusual design, very well made and a lovely patina that suggests usage and care, but you bought it cheap and have no provenance. I think it is more like Ibibio, a culture that also lives in Southern Nigeria. It appears to have been skillfully restored. And I can’t rule out the work of a master reproductionist. Well who cares? It is very interesting, and a beautiful piece of art. If it was mine, I would replace the missing cowry shell. B+

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