X65.9041 Mask

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Nigeria, Niger River Delta
Ijo peoples
Wood, pigment, nails
Early 20th century
H: 52.1 cm, W: 22.9 cm, D: 17.8 cm (H: 20.5 cm, W: 9.01 in, D: 7 in)
Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of the Wellcome Trust. X65.9041


Another Ijo headdress from the Niger Delta features a flattened fish tail and fins that rise above a humanoid head with a domed cranium and tubular eyes. Form and imagery in both masks suggest the close symbiotic relationship between humans and nature in the Delta and the powerful pervasiveness of water spirits visualized as hybrid creatures. The Delta region is replete with arts for water spirits that combine human forms and objects with those of the “water people,” or owu. The owu may be depicted on a house or the prow or stern of a canoe or on paddles or spoons. Composite masks such as this one embody ideas of hybridity and transformation, essential characteristics of Mami Wata.

Source: Drewal, Henry John. (2008) “Mami Wata: Arts for Water Spirits in Africa and Its Diasporas”, Los Angeles, UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History. page 31