An Ekpeye Pangolin Dance Mask

Nigeria, Africa

First half of the 20th Century

An Ekpeye Horizontal Dance Mask in the Form of a Pangolin

Length 120 cm depth 23 cm height 35 cm (47 x 9 x 14 in)

Many artifacts, divination and cult objects have been used by the Ekpeye in various institutions which took the form of dance and wrestling by young men and previously young women. However until at least 1966, the Egbukere was the major cultural masked celebration; held during the dry season, the dancing and feasting could last as long as three days. The meaning of the Egbukere masked dances have, over the generations, become many layered but with an over riding aspect of renewal; in a physical sense being used to celebrate the making of new farms but also in a spiritual sense by renewing ties with the ancestors.

The dancers wearing a huge variety of head dresses, from fish to mammal to human (many of them stereotypes) would appear from the forest in the late afternoon and when the pangolin akwerekwa emerged from the forest the villagers would imitate the actions of the blacksmith who he represents in the animal world.

African Arts Vol 21 No.2 (Feb 1988) pp46-53+94 by John Picton, pub. UCLA James S. Coleman African Studies Center

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