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Elu Mask with Hinged Jaw

Arts of Africa

One can witness a wide variety of masquerades addressing issues of social well-being, protection, and health, as well as personal and spiritual concerns, in the Ogoni communities of southeastern Nigeria in which Zina Saro-Wiwa works.

Elu masks, such as this one, are danced by young members of secret men’s societies that have social, religious, or governmental functions. The small masks are attached to cone-shaped caps of fiber and cloth that cover the heads of the dancers. They are usually danced at annual festivals or at funerals of members of the societies. As Saro-Wiwa notes, Elu is an older, and more delicate, form of Ogoni masquerade than the newer genre in which she has worked.
MEDIUM Wood, fiber
  • Place Made: Rivers State, Nigeria
  • DATES early 20th century
    DIMENSIONS 7 7/8 x 5 7/8 x 4 3/4 in. (20 x 15 x 12 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Milton Gross
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Small wooden face mask with hinged, movable jaw. Drilled holes appear on sides, and on bottom of chin. Lower jaw portion attached to upper by narrow wooden threads on each side. Semicircular disc like ears, with square notches inside, protrude from sides of face. Two raised square areas (scarification marks) with geometrically incised square designs appear on both sides of the face at outer corner of eye area. The eyes are hollow almond shaped openings. The head decoration is a raised portion, with a horizontally notched band down the center. The upper lip area has a vertical incision in the center, the bottom lip also. CONDITION: Good with exception of surface wear.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Ogoni. Elu Mask with Hinged Jaw, early 20th century. Wood, fiber, 7 7/8 x 5 7/8 x 4 3/4 in. (20 x 15 x 12 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Milton Gross, 71.126. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 71.126_bw.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 71.126_bw.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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