The Eket, numbering one million, are an Ibibio subgroup of farmers who do not fish unlike their Cross River neighbors. The main economic staple in the region is the palm oil, which is extracted and sold to external markets. Every village is ruled by a group elders and the heads of extended families. Their decisions are enforced by members of the ekpo society who act as messengers of the ancestors. The Ekpo society requires that its initiates sponsor feasts for the town, which foster the appearance of the redistribution of wealth by providing the poor with food and drink. In effect, this allows the disparity in wealth to be perpetuated in Ibibio society. Ekpo members are always masked when performing their policing duties, and although their identities are almost always known, fear of retribution from the ancestors prevents most people from accusing those members who overstep their limits, effectively committing police brutality.

The ekpo society uses several types of masks, among them polychrome panel-masks, unique in Africa, consisting of two panels, one supported by the other at the top. There are also round masks for the yam and yam harvest festival, characterized by a moon shape or consisting of two disks superimposed or a single one topped by an anthropomorphic head. The idiong society is an organization of diviners, who often are also members of the ekpo society. Their oval masks are very characteristic, with eyes pierced in a crescent moon shape and frontal bands in the shape of a ring. These bands are reminiscent of the palm fiber or goatskin crowns, which every new initiate received. Another association, called econg after the god of war, uses marionettes in its ceremonies. The ogbom society celebrated Isong, the goddess of the earth, spouse of the god of heaven and source of fertility and fecundity among humans, animals, and plants. In the great ogbom masquerades, the tops of the headdresses formed figures that stand as high as 30”. The details of the ogbom cult and masquerade are not well known. 

A428eket.jpg (9443 bytes)

A017eket.jpg (12432 bytes) K9E9S011.jpg (24837 bytes) K8E9M064.jpg (48227 bytes)

Visit our Museum Store