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Carved epa mask, Nigeria, North Africa, 1870-1920

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The Yoruba of the Ekiti kingdoms of Nigeria, North Africa made this mask. It was carved from a single piece of wood and is known as an ‘Epa’ mask. It is one of the largest types of mask worn during traditional dances in Africa. The lower part covers the dancer’s head and features two faces: one facing forward and one facing backwards. Above this is the superstructure of a woman using a pestle and mortar. One child is on her back, and one is holding the mortar. Epa masks are worn during elaborate choreographed dances during the Northern Yoruba People’s Epa festival. This weeklong celebration of life and family ancestry is dedicated to the deity Epa, who is believed to have been a great woodcarver. This example exhibited at the British Empire Exhibition in 1924.

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Related Themes and Topics



Glossary: mask

A covering worn on or held in front of the face for disguise, to amuse, terrify or to symbolise.

Glossary: indigenious beliefs

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