Helmet Mask

Accession Number

Helmet Mask


Artist Nationality

Object Creation Date
First half twentieth century

Medium & Support
wood and kaolin

12 1/2 in x 9 in x 9 in (31.75 cm x 22.86 cm x 22.86 cm)

Credit Line
Museum purchase made possible by the W. Hawkins Ferry Fund, James and Vivian Curtis, and David L. Chambers and John G. Crane

Subject matter
While some Igala masks refer to the ancestors of a local community, other masks, such as this one, haven been used in central, public masquerades that aim to represent the diverse yet shared identity among Igala peoples. Masks similar to this one, often called odumado, have been used in masquerades called Egwu-Ata, one of the most important annual events. As these masks are used to bring the Igala nation together, they fall under the control of the ruler, called the Ata. Different masks are cared for and performed by the clan or group they are associated with, which can be seen in the facial markings unique to each mask. Odumado masks, such as this one, are related to the Akpoto population of Igala peoples. Similar masks called agba are also found in the Ibaji region of Igala peoples. Although stylistically similar to odumado masks, agba masks have been used at funerals and festivals to celebrate the founders of local lineage groups.

References Cited: 
Berns, Marla C., Richard Fardon and Sidney Littlefield Kasfir, eds. 2011. Central Nigeria Unmasked: Arts of the Benue River Valley. Los Angeles: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History. 
Cole, Herbert M. 2012. Invention and Tradition: The Art of Southeastern Nigeria. Munich: Prestel. 
Smithsonian Institution. 1999. Selected Works from the Collection of the National Museum of African Art, Volume I. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution. 


Physical Description
Dark colored mask with an ovoid shaped head. The face has incised parallel striations, round white eyes with open crescents below, round ears, a small nose and a small mouth. The coiffure is composed of parallel ridges circumventing the entire head. There are two holes around the bottom edge of the mask, one in the front and one in the back. 

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type

Collection Area

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royalty (nobility)

1 Related Resource

Cabinet V: Shelf 3
(Part of: Albertine Monroe-Brown Study-Storage Gallery)

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved

On display

UMMA Gallery Location ➜ AMH, 2nd floor ➜ 205 (Albertine Monroe-Brown Study-Storage Gallery) ➜ Cabinet V ➜ Shelf 3