TITLE: Ogoni Elu Mask
TYPE: mask
COUNTRY: Nigeria
DESCRIPTION: Elu (Spirit) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Celebration; Funeral; Secret Society
AGE: 1960s-1970s
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin clay; cotton string; dried reeds

The Ogoni people have managed to maintain much of their precolonial culture, including their masquerading traditions.  Masks are used by the Ogoni for many purposes. Some are reserved for members of secret societies having varying social ranks.  Others are mainly for entertainment.  The elu mask is an old form of a spirit mask.  In many African societies, the color white is associated with the spirit world.

Too small to be worn on the face, the elu is instead attached to a conical cloth cap that covers the entire head of the dancer. The hinged jaw causes the mask’s mouth to open and close during the dance with a clicking sound. Such masks are worn by members of secret men’s societies during festivals and at funerals of important members of the society.