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This information was automatically generated from data provided by MOA: University of British Columbia. It has been standardized to aid in finding and grouping information within the RRN. Accuracy and meaning should be verified from the Data Source tab.


Mmwo helmet mask. Carved from a single piece of wood, the mask depicts a female face with a large ornate coiffure. The face is coloured white with black raised dashed lines down the centre of the forehead and across brow ridges, and outlining the eyes, mouth and left nostril. The hair is divided into three sections against the head with three large crests on the head and split rolls on each side. The smaller crests on each side are twisted with an off-white X-shape through the centre like a spoke. Each side has a vertical groove with a royal blue in it. The large centre crest has raised notches around the exterior and five vertical bars through the centre. The rim of the mask has a series of holes through it. Small wire looped through holes at back of head for mounting.

History Of Use

The masks are performed by men as masqueraders for middle grade initiation in the men’s secret society. They are also danced at festivals during the dry season to promote abundant harvest and at funerals of prominent members of society to escort the dead to the spirit world. The dancers mime the graceful movements and deportment of young women and sing in praise of both real and spirit maidens. The elaborate upper section is meant to portray nineteenth century ceremonial hairstyles that evoke wealth and royalty.

Cultural Context

performance; dancing

Iconographic Meaning

Maiden spirts represent delicate beauty and the feminine character. The spiritual and moral qualities of young women are idealized through exaggerated small features and a pale complexion.


Assumed to have been collected by Lieber while he was living in Nigeria (1965-1970), lecturing at the University of Ibadan under the auspices of CIDA.

Item History

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