Global Art & Artifacts

Bronze Passport Mask.  Igbo Tribe.  Lost Wax.  Igbo-Ukwu. Nigeria.

Click the photo above for a larger version and more pictures



The people of Igbo-Ukwu (southeast of Onitsha), ancestors of present-day Igbo, were proficient in metal working art in the 9th century (+ or – years depending on what expert you speak with). They are thought to be the earliest smithers (hammering, bending, twisting & incising) of copper and alloys in West Africa . . . and likely to be the earliest to employ the lost wax casting techniques in the creation of bronze figures and sculpture.


We know this because of three archaeological sites that yielded hundreds of vessels, masks, crowns, breastplates, staff ornaments, swords and a lot more.


The “lost wax” (or cire perdue) is a metal casting technique.  It is now rare but sometimes found in small workshops around the world.  The technique used to make this mask required a sculpting in wax and then covered with clay, then baked in a kiln… hardening the clay and melting the wax.  Liquid metal is then poured into the hollow.  The clay is then broken away.


Seems pretty straightforward, but it is definitely not.  The quality of the wax and the consistency of the clay is key to a successful casting.  This is something the Igbo clan in this region have mastered.


What about these passport masks?  Well, this one – as well as other passport masks – are not made to be worn.  They are smaller and often kept on the owner’s body or among personal possessions.  They function as a portable power and protective force.


Because of these dynamics, larger bronze ones are usually possessed by clan leaders or members of high standing.  This one is such a mask


Rare for many reasons.


Acquired from a specialized collector of bronze masks in the Netherlands.


For the Serious Collector of bronze Nigerian masks.  Stand is not included.


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