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Face Mask with Hinged Jaw (Elu)

7 1/2 x 4 3/4 x 4 5/8 in. (19.1 x 12.1 x 11.7 cm)

Unknown, Ogoni
Nigerian

Object Type: Sculpture
Medium and Support: Wood, pigment and fiber
Credit Line: Marion Stratton Gould Fund
Accession Number: 1972.53
Location: Currently on view
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The white face of this Ogoni mask is associated with the youthfulness of benevolent spirits. As positive forces, elu are entertainers and are performed by young men on multiple occasions throughout the year. These unusually small masks perch on the front of the dancer’s face attached to a woven head piece. The mask is further animated when the dancer, clenching in his teeth a stick attached to its back, opens and closes the hinged jaw.

The bowler hat is typical of this type of mask, as elu often depict hairstyles and fashions current at the time. In the early 20th century when this mask was carved, the Ogoni were involved in trading palm oil (for cooking) and gained exposure to this European style. These bowler hats became desirable prestige items for the Ogoni.
[Gallery label text, 2009]

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