Skip Navigation

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)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
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.
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Ejagham. Skin-covered Headdress with Raffia Beard, late 19th or early 20th century. Wood, antelope skin, fiber, pigment, metal, 13 1/2 x 8 in. (34.3 x 20.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John A. Friede, 74.66.2. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 74.66.2_bw.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 74.66.2_bw.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
"CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
You may download and use Brooklyn Museum images of this three-dimensional work in accordance with a Creative Commons license. Fair use, as understood under the United States Copyright Act, may also apply. Please include caption information from this page and credit the Brooklyn Museum. If you need a high resolution file, please fill out our online application form (charges apply). For further information about copyright, we recommend resources at the United States Library of Congress, Cornell University, Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums, and Copyright Watch. For more information about the Museum's rights project, including how rights types are assigned, please see our blog posts on copyright. If you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, please contact
Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome any additional information you might have.