This bronze sculpture from Southern Nigeria depicts a head of a young woman at an initiation ceremony. Some believe that it also has symbols of the ideographic language Nsibidi.
Nsibidi is an ancient script used to write various languages in West Central Africa. Most notably used by the Uguakima and Ejagham (Ekoi) people of Nigeria and Cameroon, nsibidi is also used by the nearby Ebe, Efik, Ibibio, Igbo and Uyanga people.
The figure’s beauty is typical of a character (known as Ikem) in a secular dance form that emerged during the early twentieth century in response to colonization. The dancers of the secret society at important ceremonies were mindul of not offending the colonial government and Christian missionaries.
This bronze head has faces looking both ways and hair twirling upwards. The effect on the viewer is that of a dancer moving very fast.