Our Ekoi / Ejagham Heads exhibition opened with works of unparalleled
emotional intensity. The heads are remarkable skin-covered pieces from the
Cross River region of Nigeria and Cameroon. The strikingly, even agressively
realistic heads replace the enemy head trophies that were banned early this
century. Controlled by powerful associations, most are attached to basketry
caps, worn as headdresses, and were danced at initiation rituals, important
funerals and secular celebrations.
The show includes face masks, two-faced hemet masks and the Ikem headdresses, with their large, elaborate, hornlike coiffures. The Janus heads express the concept of duality; light / dark, female / male, day / night, good / evil. A few related pieces from neighboring groups complete the show. Throughout the sculptures, large and small, there is a naturalism and expressiveness unique in traditional African art.