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Skin-covered Headdress with Raffia Beard

Arts of Africa

Headdresses covered with leather are found only in the Cross River area of Cameroon. Some are fiercely stylized while others are startlingly realistic and may in fact have been portraits of individuals.

The artist carves the form from a single piece of wood and then covers it with untanned antelope skin that has been soaked for several days, scraped, and smoothed. He stitches, pegs, and ties the skin into place and allows it to dry. Eyes, ears, scarification patterns, and hair are carved and covered separately, then pegged onto the finished piece. Finally, the piece is painted prior to performance.

MEDIUM Wood, antelope skin, fiber, pigment, metal
DATES late 19th or early 20th century
DIMENSIONS 13 1/2 x 8 in. (34.3 x 20.3 cm) base diam: 7 1/4 in. (18.5 cm)
COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CREDIT LINE Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John A. Friede
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Wooden headdress in form of human head and covered with hide. There are notches down the center of forehead and on either side of face. Mouth is open and teeth are indicated. Around chin and extending and extending from ear to earis a short raffia beard. A braid hangs from the center of the beard. Eyes are inset with nail studs for pupils. Four braids are attached by wooden pegs to back of head. At base of neck is a rattan collar with one handle on either side. CONDITION: Skin covering is split: around base of skull extending to corner of mouth, also at back of neck, on left side and right side of head, on right temple, and on top of forehead. Raffia beard is flaking. Deep check inside left side of mouth.
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