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Hippopotamus Mask (Otobo)

This mask’s name, otobo, means “hippopotamus,” an animal that the Kalabari refer to as “the beast who holds up the flowing tide,” and the mask’s solid form and tusk-like canines clearly convey the strength and fierceness of its namesake. As befitting this powerful aquatic mammal that is known for its aggressive and unpredictable movements on land, the otobo masquerader moves in a belligerent and forceful manner toward both the audience and other masqueraders. During a performance, the mask, which is positioned on top of the head, is decorated with feathers, fiber, leaves, and cloth, which are attached to the metal loops on the sides and top.

Ijo peoples (Kalabari subgroup)
Degema area, Nigeria
Hippopotamus Mask (Otobo)
Collected ca. 1916
Wood, metal, incrustation, pigment
H. 18 ½ in. (47.0 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Gift of Raymond and Laura Wielgus in honor of Rudy Professor Emeritus Roy Sieber, 96.49