As discussed last week here a lot of heavily encrusted figures from the southern Nigeria-Cameroon border are mistakenly identified as Keaka. I illustrated my text with such a Kaka figure, but wanted to take this opportunity to show two headdresses from the Keaka (or Eastern Ejagham) to give an idea of the art they in their turn created. Just as their neighbors the Banyang and Anyang, the Keaka adopted several mask types from the Boki, most notoriously the headdresses (sometimes called crest masks) covered with antelope skin and with a basketwork cap as the base for the dancer’s head. The two examples illustrated here belong to Stuttgart’s Linden Museum in Germany. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any additional information about them but they can most likely be dated as late 19th century (as many similar examples in German museums). Unless the exact provenance is given, It’s not always easy to determine the precise origin of these headdresses, that’s why we often find them listed as Ekoi (the common language in this area). Keaka examples generally distinct themselves by their naturalism (notable in the oval eyes, nose and mouth).
The above Ekoi (Ejagham) headdress (height: 37 cm) from the Alberto Galaverni collection was offered for sale by Koller on 11 December. Estimated at CHF 5,000 – CHF 10,000, it made a suprising CHF 41,000 (without costs) – that’s eight times the low estimate or € 33,5K and thus worth a mention. For more images and information click here.
It is somewhat related to an Ekoi headdress (without horns), collected ca. 1860 by Frederick Wolff, currently at the Denver Art Museum (illustrated below); one of the earliest collected examples.
UPDATE: I received some messages to inform me that the Denver Art Museum’s headdress is at least one or two generations earlier; I do agree. There are multiple other examples that are from the same generation, but I prefered to illustrate this particular headdress due to its early collection date. Apparently the Galaverni headdress was bought by a French dealer – probably inspired by the result of Allan Stone’s Ekoi headdress.