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Lot 100D: Nigeria Igbo Mba Mask with Organic Decoration
27 October 2016
Louisville, CO, USALive Auction
Africa, Nigeria, Igbo people, early 20th century CE. This is a colorful wood mask with a human face and a tall, flat crest; the face is black and white in the classic Igbo style, and the crest adds red and yellow and is topped with a red painted bundle of grass. There is a woven backing which was used to attach it to the top of the head. The face appears solemn, with a long, thin nose, narrowed eyes, and a slightly opened mouth. The Igbo use masks as incarnated spirits of the dead; this is why they are painted white, which is the color of the spirit. Masked dancers would wear elaborate costumes, including being sometimes covered with mirrors, and would don the masks and costumes so that their true identities disappeared, subsumed by the spirit they inhabited. The "mba" mask, like this one, often appears in pairs -- one representing a boy dressed as a girl, and one representing the girl whom he is satirizing. This particular example is notable for its use of yellow as well as its surviving organic material, which is often much more degraded. Size: 3.5" W x 18" H (8.9 cm x 45.7 cm)
Provenance: Ex- Adeon Gallery, Nick Poolos, Chicago, IL acquired before 1970.
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Condition Report: Excellent preservation of organic matter on the mask; colors are bright, with expected wear.