Ekpesi ('Feather Man' Headdress)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:

During the dry summer months, when farming demands less attention, the Eloyi begin their masquerade. It is a celebration of the male elders who passed away the previous year.

The Ekpesi is worn by the drummer during this annual ritual. It is also worn for the funerals of noble or important villagers and by servants of the chief when on errands in neighbouring villages.

Its resemblance to other headdresses, such as the Bamana antelope and Afo, is often noted. However, this is purely coincidental.

While Ekpesi headdresses may also reference the antelope, they mainly feature decorative nods to cockscombs and chameleons. The cock is highly revered by the Eloyi as it is considered one of god’s messengers, symbolising abundance. The chameleon is thought to bring many fortunes or fates depending on its colour -- from death and barrenness to life and virility.

Distinguishing Features

  • Combines three zoomorphic elements
    • Elaborately carved chameleon
    • Chameleon sits on top of a cockscomb (or porcupine quills)
    • Pair of curved horns from base of headdress
  • Some examples have two figures on cap element
  • Some have jequirity/abrus seeds added to mask with resin

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