Startling Beauty

Crest Mask, Possibly Etim Bassey Ekpenyong, Early 20th Century

Winter storm Isaiah has descended upon us with all of its biblical fury. Bringing with it flooding rain (checkout our basement), severe storms, snow and the worst of all, crippling ice. That is the forecast according to that snowflake network, CNN. But are you going to believe fake news? You’ve got to watch out for that crippling ice though. It will put you in traction for weeks. Anne with her delicate heinie has a solution for this danger of falling and landing on her tuchus, don’t go outside. That’s OK, she won’t miss it at all, because she is in full first grade mode this weekend. It’s report card time and she is weighing the fate of nineteen souls. What grades shall be placed in their permanent record? Who will triumph and who will fail and which parent will be first to assail her for her decisions? That’s not my problem though, I just have to live with it.

To us, the facial features of this southwestern Nigerian mask, may appear fierce or even look evil. The fact that it is sheathed in animal skins doesn’t help. Yet, the mask actually depicts an ideal beauty, a young woman with perfectly filed teeth (A practice that would be a nightmare for any dentist, but would make the teeth easier to floss.) and a distinctive, if somewhat devilish coiffure, worn on her wedding day, signaling her readiness for marriage. This art is believed to be the work of Etim Bassey Ekpenyong, who is credited with creating a mask for the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz. I don’t know which mask, maybe the wizard effigy, but I’m thinking the flying monkeys. They’ve always been scary to me. 

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