Large Head with Horns/Nigerian Ekoi, c1950
Sculpture, Carved Wood & Skin
23 x 22 x 6 in
Price on Request
This carving is of a large head with three horns. This piece is made of wood and skin by the Ekoi people of Nigeria. Ekoi people, also known as Ejagham, are an ethnic group in the extreme southeast of Nigeria and extending eastward into the southwest region of Cameroon. The Ekoi are best known for their Ekpe headdresses, of which this piece is a spectacular example. 23" x 22" x 6 1/2" carving Ekpe, also known as Egbo (Ibibio: Leopard), is a secret society flourishing chiefly among the Efiks of the Cross River State, the Oron, of Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria, Arochukwu and some parts of Abia State, as well as in the diaspora, such as in Cuba and Brazil. The society is still active at the beginning of the 21st century, however, now it plays only a ceremonial role. Ekpe is a mysterious spirit who is supposed to live in the jungle and to preside at the ceremonies of the society. Members of the Ekpe society are said to act as messengers of the ancestors (ikan). The economics of the society is based on paying tribute to the village ancestors. Only males can join, boys being initiated about the age of puberty. Members are bound by oath of secrecy, and fees on entrance are payable. The Ekpe-men are ranked in seven or nine grades, for promotion to each of which fresh initiation ceremonies, fees and oaths are necessary. The society combines a kind of freemasonry with political and lawenforcing aims. For instance any member wronged in an Ekpe district, that is one dominated by the society, has only to address an Ekpe-man or beat the Ekpe drum in the Ekpe-house, or blow Ekpe as it is called, i.e., sound the Ekpe horn, before the hut of the wrong-doer, and the whole machinery of the society is put in force to see justice done. Ekpe members always wear masks when performing their police duties, and although individuals may nonetheless be recognized, fear of retribution from the ikan stops people from accusing those members who may overstep their limits. Formerly the society earned a bad reputation due to what the British viewed as the barbarous customs that were intermingled with its rites.