The Wurkum TribeThe Wurkum Tribe
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map of NigeriaThe Wurkum live in the north of the Benue valley in Nigeria in the province of Bauchi. Their masks, which used to be attributed to the Waja and were associated with fertility rituals, have a very specific shape. Worn by a man hidden beneath a straw skirt, they consist of two parts: the first involves a head on top of a long neck; the second is formed by two panels, empty inside, that depict the body. The two parts are more or less equal in length, but the bird-shaped head is flattened on the sides, and is therefore best viewed laterally, while the "body" is visible only from the front. Seen in profile, the head is constructed around a slightly bulging circle, whose center is the ear. A crest formed from a semicircle stands above three indented protuberances th at depict the nose and an open beak-shaped mouth, painted red on the inside. Holes all around allow the attachment of the raffia skirt. The two body panels are each divided into two vertical parts of different colors, one black and the other red. Even though the form of this mask may appear a bit coarse, it bears witness to a great inventive spirit. Some statues having the same crest remind one of this mask, especially in the way in which the shoulders are hooked onto the bust…

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