IU

Indiana University Bloomington IU Bloomington IUB

Mask (Isi Mmuo)

Traditionally representing spirits, Igbo masks have a great variety of forms and appear under a variety of circumstances, though today most performances are for secular entertainment. The Igbo associate the color white with goodness, purity, and the spiritual realm, and generally masks with white faces and refined, delicate features represent good, beautiful spirits, while dark masks with larger, cruder features and, frequently, references to animals, refer to ugly, bad spirits. The black vertical lines in relief across the mask’s forehead represents ichi, a scarification pattern mostly—though not exclusively—associated with men of high status.

Igbo peoples, Nigeria
Mask (Isi Mmuo)
Late 19th or early 20th century
Wood, pigment
H. 12 in. (30.5 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Gift of Frederick Stafford, 59.39