Lot: 215

96th Auction

Seated female puppet figure

Nigeria, Ibibio

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
Helmut Gernsheim, London / Castagnola-Lugano, Switzerland
Arendt Oetker, Berlin, Germany
Joaquin Pecci, Brussels, Belgium
H: 27.8 inch 3500 EUR
plus 23 % commission, VAT, transport and insurance

wood, three-part, nails, paint, inscribed "18 03 ...(64?)", base Puppet figures of the Ibibio were the property of the male "ekong" ("ekon") society. The puppet performance traditionally takes place at night, when between nine and sixteen puppet characters appear on top of a twelve-foot-high screen of cloth that hides both the puppeteers and the musicians. The puppets are manipulated by sticks and strings. Their voices are created by using a small piece of bamboo covered with a thin membrane of bat's wing, which when blown sounds like a paper-and-comb. The "manipulation" of the puppets is done exclusively by members of the "ekong" society and requires special training. The puppets embody a wide variety of human characters - male and female, young and old, rich and poor, sensible and antisocial. Their play is used for educational purposes, but also provided a socially approved way of commenting and criticizing the communtiy and its leaders. Nowadays it is most often performed at funeral celebrations for an important personage.


Anderson, Martha G., Ways of the Rivers, Los Angeles 2002, p. 290, ill. 9.22