DescriptionIGBO (IBO, IZI, IZZI), Nigeria
An Igbo subgroup, the Izi, living in the northeastern part of Igbo forest territory in southeast Nigeria uses a large, horizontal abstract mask called "Ogbodo Enyo," the "elephant spirit mask." Elephants have not appeared in Igbo-Izi territory for some time, so depictions of them are based on oral description, not actual sightings. This results in a cubistic representation, with some parts missing or displaced and references to other animals or people included, all presented in a large, horizontal mask, normally painted black and white with earth pigments. Tusks jutting from the front of the mask are the most identifiable parts. Farther back, a raised vertical area contains two conical eyes pointing forward, while a short, pointed trunk has been displaced upward above the eyes. On the back of the raised part of the face, facing backward, there is usually a human face or head, painted white with black detail. At times there are two faces; one on each side of the mask. Some elephant masks are composites, with hippo and warthog elements as well.
The elephant spirit mask contains a harsh, violent being of unusual power. It appears in the dry season festivals and at the funerals of important leaders. It is usually worn by men of the senior age grades, though at times younger members of the men's society may wear it. After a very energetic, angry dance, it charges through the village, but the human head at the back of the mask exercises control through calm reason in deliberate contrast to the ferocity of a wild beast, and so the mask actually represents a duality of calm reason and order contrasted with brute strength and energy. Both are necessary for completeness; the performance of the elephant spirit mask is actually an exhibition of community cohesiveness necessary for success.
The Robert V. Berg Collection
Height: 20 ¼ inches
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