SAM Art: Crocodile Woman

“From a water-woven land come creatures of convoluted imagination. They know where the power lies-in essences of female and reptile.”  -collector Katherine White, 1979

Water flows through the Cross River area, which is the second largest delta system on earth. A crocodile guarding these waters can become a “familiar” for a woman, adding to her abilities and insights. Persons with unusual inclinations were often likely to attribute their actions to the persuasive force of an animal or reptile who sought them out. Women who cultivated this alliance with a familiar could use it to be helpful, or let it become destructive.

Crocodile headdress, Ejagham, Cross River Region, Nigerian / Cameroonian, wood, skin, basketry, 29 x 38 1/2 x 8 3/4 in., Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company, 81.17.507. Currently on view in the African art galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.