Ejagham or Ekoi peoples, Cross River Region, Nigeria/Cameroon, Headdress

Ejagham or Ekoi peoples, Cross River Region, Nigeria/Cameroon 

Headdress, 20th century 

carved wood, animal hide, pigments, basketry base 

Purchase, 1978 (4637.1) 

Headdresses covered in animal hide, like this startlingly life-like depiction of a woman with an elaborate coiffure, are created by the Ejagham and Ekoi peoples for both festive and ceremonial occasions, at which the headdresses are worn secured to the top of the head by a dancer, accompanied by musical instruments, whose face and body would be concealed under a full-length costume. The artist who made this headdress first carved the form out of wood and then covered it with antelope skin soaked in water for several days, stretching and binding it into place, after which it shrinks and stiffens. Eyes, teeth, and elements representing hair are often carved separately and secured into the finished form.