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ID number:  BIRRC-D0004
Institution:  Research and Cultural Collections
Named collection:  Danford Collection of West African Art and Artefacts
Artist / Maker:  Unknown
Title / Object name:  Dance mask
Object type:  Mask
Place made:  Orlu, E. Nigeria
Culture:  Igbo
Materials:  Painted wood
Measurements:  28 x 19 x 12 cm
BIRRC-D0004.jpg

This dance mask is painted yellow and black, with touches of red and white.

Igbo masks are often painted chalk white to represent the spirits they embody and masqueraders accompany them with elaborate and colourful costumes. Igbo masking takes place for a range of occassions including sacred rituals, public festivals and burials. A popular example of these events is the Yam festival which takes place around August to celebrate the harvest of these crops. This mask was collected in Nigeria by John Danford.

This may be a 'maiden spirit' mask or Agbogho Mmuo. This masquerade imitates the character of adolescent girls, exaggerating the girls' beauty and movements. The masquerade depicts the idealised Igbo maiden, with small features and a white complexion, which also shows that it is representing a spirit.

Notes:  John Danford spent the majority of his professional life working for the British Council in West Africa. He spent 11 years as the representative in Ibadan, Nigeria, his arts education providing him with the insight to encourage and develop the arts in Nigeria. For his achievements in this area he was awarded an OBE in 1953. He occupied three further posts in Trinidad, Manchester and Sierra Leone before illness forced him into retirement. In 1964 a large portion of his West African arts collection was loaned to the University of Birmingham before being purchased in 1975, forming the nucleus of the Danford Collection of West African Art and Artefacts.

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