Elegant African Urhobo wood mask, early XX-century, 35 cm, good condition. The Urhobos, living near the northwest of the Niger Delta River, form the main ethnic group of the Delta State among the 36 states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. They speak Urhobo, a language of the Niger-Congo group. Together with the lsoko, whose art is close, they are collectively known as Sobo. Their large sculptures depicting the spirits of nature, edjo, or the founding ancestors of the clan, to whom sacrifices were offered, were grouped in shrines within the villages.
They also produce figures similar to the ikenga of igbo called iphri, ivwri, of half-animal form half-human. They personify male aggression and are intended for warriors and notables.However, after consultation with the soothsayer, young children can also wear miniature iphri in the form of geometric amulets, attached to the neck. Their masks embody the spirits of water and earth. This copy would have been borrowed from the Western ljo.
This type of mask, which was also associated with a young girl (omotokpokpo) intervened during the floods in Niger. Nigerian Arts Revisited; Barbier-Mueller Museum; Ed.