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Maiden Spirit Helmet Mask (Agbogho Mmwo)

Arts of Africa

Agbogho mmwo, or "maiden spirit," masks are worn by men at festivals that honor important deities. They represent the Igbo ideal of female beauty: small, balanced features, elaborate hairstyles, and delicate tattoos. The men who dance agbogho mmwo masks wear colorful, tight-fitting fiber costumes, entertaining the crowd with exaggerated versions of women's dances.

MEDIUM Wood, pigment, string
  • Place Made: Nigeria
  • DATES early 20th century
    DIMENSIONS 19 3/4 x 5 3/4 x 12 in. (50.2 x 14.6 x 30.5 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Marc and Ruth Franklin in memory of Lillian S. Korzenik
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Igbo. Maiden Spirit Helmet Mask (Agbogho Mmwo), early 20th century. Wood, pigment, string, 19 3/4 x 5 3/4 x 12 in. (50.2 x 14.6 x 30.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Marc and Ruth Franklin in memory of Lillian S. Korzenik, 87.215. Creative Commons-BY
    IMAGE front, CUR.87.215_print_front_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.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Helmet mask with long narrow face, painted white; narrow protruding sharp nose; slit eyes; open mouth showing teeth; small ears. Arching eyebrows, sides of nose, lips, and rectangular ridged decorarions in center of forehead and in front of each ear are all painted brown. Linear and spiral carving on helmet portion of headdress, also painted brown. Above this is an elaborate openwork construction in brown and white, with a tall central ridge surmounted by discs and cup-like projections, flanked by a double-volute and fretwork form on eac side. The double-volute forms are decorated with incised triangles. CONDITION: A series of small holes borders the face and helmet portion, some remnants of string are threaded through them. Sticky black pieces of tape inside the mask, in back of eyes, mouth, especially at edges. Some areas of possible insect damage. Marks of water damage on forehead.
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