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Angas seed mask, Nigeria 13" tall (mask only) x 8" wide, 17" with attachments Ex private US collection, reportedly collected in the 40's. Some minor seed and cotton loss, but in very good shape for its age.
These masks are uncommon and until very recently they were identified as being from the Koro people of Nigeria. The red arbus seeds (poisonous) were meticulously threaded and attached to the plant fiber structure in rows forming a wonderful overall visual. Cotton tufts are hanging at the ends of strands of arbus seeds around the base of the mask. A friend of mine talked to a man from Nigeria familiar with these masks and was told "that every row had to have an odd number of seeds, and all the rows added together had to make an odd number as well." I didn't count the seeds to see if this was true, I'll just take his word.
Even though constructed from plant fiber and seeds, this mask has a strong sculptural form and a powerful presence in a room.
"This dance mask comes from the Ngass, or Angas, people located in the Plateau State region of northeastern Nigeria. The mask is made of plant fibers woven together and decorated with red abrus seeds and tufts of cotton. The mask is meant to cover the entire head and was likely worn with a billowing cloth robe to complete the masquerade. A mask such as this was possibly used as part of a masquerade for a men's secret society. The design of this mask and use of red abrus seeds for decoration is extremely similar to the masks used for the Jankai masquerade by the Hausa and other groups within the Plateau State. Jankai is a men's secret society, and the name is a Hausa word meaning "Red Head". Jankai appears at harvest-time dressed in a red helmet mask and billowing cloth garment." - Spurlock Museum