|Title||Ijo Headdress Mask Cross River Nigeria African Art 38 Inch|
|Type of Object||headdress|
|Country of Origin||Nigeria|
|Materials||Wood, pigment, encrustation|
|Approximate Age||20th Century|
|Dimensions||Height: 19 inches. Width: 8 inches|
|Overall Condition||Good. Most of our pieces have spent decades on at least two continents, and have been treasured by several owners. Small splits, scrapes and cracks are a normal part of their patina attesting to their age and extensive use. We examine each piece carefully when we receive it and report any damage we find in our listings. Please look carefully at the pictures which may also reveal condition and damage.|
Provenance: From the collection of Howard Gelb, St. Paul, MN collector of African Art, who was also a businessman, lawyer, and philanthropist. Mr. Gelb died in 2015, at the age of 96.
Additional Information: A large zoomorphic mask with a wide open mouth. The mask is worn on the top of the head, eyes looking forward through the mouth. There are 9 different faces carved in the surface of the mask. The large open mouth appears to represent a crocodile.
The most well-known of the arts of the Ijo are the famed, abstract "water spirit" masks, which usually include a human-form face displayed amidst an array of references to important totem animals, like crocodiles and hippopotamus. These masks are startling and fascinating, with levels of abstraction unique for an area known for the realistic depiction of the human form. Though their neighbors the Igbo craft similar water-spirit masks, the form certainly does not dominate their artistic output like it does the Ijo. Ijo water-spirit masks, usually worn on top of the head and extending horizontally, are used in a variety of functions, from ancestor worship, to religious and magical ceremonies. The realm of the water-spirits is important to the Ijo, who believe that is where both the unborn and the dead reside. They do use basic human forms, though these are found most-often on decorative panels instead of stand-alone statues. These panels serve a protective function wherever they are displayed. These are rare however, and found mostly in the western fringes of Ijo territory. Despite its relative rarity, the striking qualities of Ijo sculpture make it highly-valued by collectors and museums.
This headpiece was worn on the top of the head horizontally. It represents the spirit of water, one of the most important deities for the Ijo. This is understandable as rivers are the providers of food and the important ways used for economic activities and trades in the region of Nigeria Cross-River.
For examples of other Cross River water spirit crocodiles, see WAYS OF THE RIVERS.