A Nigerian Igbo (Ibo) African native tribal mask - according to a tribal mask expert and a tribal mask museum we consulted - the Igbo tribe often put similar horn bill birds on top of its masks. The Igbo are an ethnic group of mostly farmers, living chiefly in southeastern Nigeria, where they are one of the largest and most influential ethnic groups. Many African Americans and Afro Caribbeans are of Igbo descent.
We do not know for sure how old it is – but it is likely at least 40-50 years old, and may be older. It may have actually been used, or it could be decorative, but it is unlikely one made in the last 20-30 years for the Nigerian tourist or export trade. We purchased it in 2003 from the estate sale of a gentlemen from Bellows Falls, New Hampshire, who at the time of his death was 90+ years old.
However, regardless of its age, it IS DEFINITELY hand carved and hand-painted. Hand-painted colours are actually muted in tone, but still appear stark and striking. The finely carved bird perched over the forehead of the face is particularly exceptional craftsmanship.
Native tribes set aside certain times of the year to honour spirits or ancestors. Among non-literate peoples who do not record their own histories, masked rituals act as an important link between past and present, giving a sense of historic continuity that strengthens their social bond. Masks often represent supernatural spirits as well as ancestors and therefore have both a religious and a social significance. On these occasions, masks usually recognizable as dead chieftains, relatives, friends, or even foes are worn or exhibited. Gifts are made to the spirits incarnated in the masks, while in other instances dancers wearing stylized mourning masks perform the prescribed ceremony.
CONDITION NOTE: Mask is made of a light porous wood. The photo flash shows the colors somewhat brighter than they are in person. Mask weighs about one pound and measures 10-1/2" high x 6" wide x 5" deep.
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