Africa, Nigeria, Yoruba, Epa Cult, ca. early 20th century CE. A large scale, hand carved janus headed anthropomorphic helmet mask created by the Epa cult, most likely worn to honor Yoruba ancestors and bring about fertility or a healthy harvest. An impressive piece with boldly carved facial features on each side, including wide, open mouths revealing impressive grills of large, white teeth, almond shaped eyes, small cup-shaped ears, and protruding noses, all adorned with pigments of red, white, and black hues, the complexion showing a white dotted pattern, the eyes and mouths also highlighted with white pigment. The top of the mask is concave, perhaps to receive offerings or a separate coiffure or headdress. A strong example. Size: 13.5" L x 10" W x 13" H (34.3 cm x 25.4 cm x 33 cm)
Epa masks are among the largest masks danced by the Yoruba/Ekiti people of northern Nigeria. Furthermore, Epa masks have traditionally been some of the largest masks created in Africa - sometimes weighing up to sixty pounds. This example is a helmet mask that a dancer would wear over the head and rest on his shoulders, hence covering the head entirely. He would see by peering from the open mouth. For further context, see a photo of a Janus Epa mask performing in the northeast of Nigeria in "Yoruba. Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought," p. 192. and read about Epa carvings in Northern Ekiti, pp. 189-206.
Provenance: Ex- Adeon Gallery, Nick Poolos, Chicago, IL acquired before 1970.
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