Lot: 188

102nd Auction

Water spirit headdress

Nigeria, Niger-Delta, Eastern Ijaw (Ijo) - Kalabari

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
Bernd Muhlack, Kiel, Germany (acquired in Cameroon around 1980) H: 10.6 inch 1000 EUR
plus 27 % commission, VAT, transport and insurance

wood, colour pigments, base

The habitat of the Ijaw is characterised by rivers, creeks, mangrove swamps and estuaries. Water spirits "owu" therefore play an important role in their lives and are honoured by all Ijaw peoples with masks and mask dances.

There are regional differences in the external appearance of the masks. Whereas many western and central Ijaw water spirit headdresses are fairly naturalistic renderings of sharks, sawfish and numerous other water creatures, Eastern Ijaw masks tend toward the cubistically abstract and are rarely very naturalistic.

Eastern or Kalabari Ijaw masking is in the hands of the "sekiapu", the "dancing people", and the "ekine" singing and dancing association, headed by "ekine ba", its female patron and founder who taught men how to wear and dance masks (according to Cole, 2012, p. 72).


Cole, Herbert M., Invention and Tradition, Munich, London, New York 2012, p. 71 f.