Artist: Igbo peoples Region: Nigeria Accession: M84-359 Period: Mid-20th century Materials: Wood, pigment, cloth Dimensions:
Living just north of the Niger delta, the Igbo peoples are among the country's largest ethnic groups and have varied masking traditions. In the pre-colonial era, their masking rituals helped maintain social order through policing, fining and judging. As most of these roles passed first to the British colonial authority, then to the Nigerian government, Igbo masking became more secular.
Although worn by men, agbogho mmuo, or "maiden spirit" masks exemplify Igbo ideals of feminine beauty: smooth and radiant skin, slender noses, small mouths, carefully-placed tattoos and elaborately-styled hairdos. In the Lang mask’s coiffure, three arched crests reach far above the face, supported by spiral carved tubes that resemble braids. Attached to the bottom edge of the mask is a neck covering of black- and ochre-coloured cloth.
Adding tight-fitting, vibrantly-coloured costumes to their ensembles, dancers mimic the comportment of young women to delight audience members at celebratory funerals of high-ranking individuals and festivals honouring important deities.