Ogbodo Enyi (Elephant Spirit Headdress)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


The Izzi Igbo of Nigeria make use of a crest mask, or headdress, called ogbodo enyi, to cleanse each community of evil spirits and distructive elements, and are also used as agents for social control. Enyi meaning either 'elephant' or 'friend', and ogbodo meaning 'spirit', these masks are said to be reinterpretations of the elephant form juxtaposed with human elements. These headdresses, once described as harsh, violent and threathening spirits, are now danced by boys and men (and more recently, women) of various age-groups, during processions through the village, where older maskers are given gifts and in return, the dancers complete projects that benefit the community.

NOTE: "Dozens of masks left lgboland to enter European or American collections during or after the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-70." 2

Distinguishing Features

  • Heavy wooden mask
    • Older age-grades wear larger, more elaborately decorated masks
  • Zoomorphic form
    • Fusion of human and animal features
  • Head made of flat planes, meeting at right angles
  • Eyes are projecting plugs
  • Some masks have no ears, others have large backswept ears
  • Trunk transposed to the forehead
    • Parallel to and above a long humanoid nose
  • Pointed human nose
    • Above snout, below trunk
  • Tusks protrude from cubistic snout
    • Tusks extend forward from either side of large mouth
  • Back of mask rounded
  • Small human head projects from back of mask (sometimes face incised into rounded back of mask)
  • Red, white and black pigment in graphic motifs

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