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    Description

    WAJA, Nigeria
    Shoulder Mask

    Wood, pigment

    Arts of the middle and upper Benue River of Nigeria did not receive scholarly attention until the 1950s and 1960s; there is still confusion about which of these small groups produces which object. A case in point is the yoke or shoulder mask type, sometimes also called a "vertical" mask. The Wurkun of the middle Benue River and the Waja of the upper Benue produce them along with the Mumuye and Jukun. Some of these masks, like the present example, are tall, with small, abstract heads and geometric painted designs, while others are shorter, with larger, more realistic heads.

    Waja shoulder masks are used by the men's society, "Mam." They are kept in secret places in the bush, away from the village, and no outsider is allowed to see them. The masks represent powerful agencies maintaining the well-being of clans or families, and they possess ambivalent qualities, so are unpredictable. They are regarded as quite dangerous. They usually appear in male-female pairs in rites to heal the sick or safeguard hunters or warriors. They activate various ancestral and protective spirits to this end.

    The dancer's head is inside the yoke, the top of his head supporting the weight of the piece. His costume is secured through the holes all around the edges of the yoke, so that when it is properly secured, he is completely invisible.

    Provenance:
    From the Estate of Liz Claiborne and Arthur Ortenberg

    Read more about the Liz Claiborne and Arthur Ortenberg Collection here.


    Sotheby's, African and Oceanic Art, November 15, 2002, lot 46

    Height: 56 ¾ inches


    Estimate: $15,000 - $30,000.

    Condition Report*: Condition report available upon request.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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    Auction Dates
    July, 2016
    8th Friday
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