Nsikpe Dance Crest

by Ejagham, Calabar, Nigeria

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Nsikpe Dance Crest at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Credit: Courtesy Penn Museum

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Masks like this one originally were used as symbols to unify the diverse groups of the area. During colonial rule the associations controlling the masks were transformed into political organizations that enforced laws and maintained peace. With growing affluence in this oil-producing region the masks came to mark the status and prestige of the wearer. This particular mask has been attributed to the Nsikpe association whose membership was open to anyone able to pay the entry fee. It is on display in the Penn Museum’s African Gallery, which features materials from throughout that vast continent.