Ekpe members at the society lodge.  A giant ukara cloth hanging as a backdrop.  Amasu Village, Arochukwu, Imo State, 1989. Photographer:  Eli Bentor.

Negotiation of the Secret Society Cloth: An Exploration of Ukara

The following information about this past Turchin Center exhibition is kept here for archival purposes only. This exhibition is not currently on display. View current and upcoming exhibitions.

Friday, April 5, 2013
Saturday, August 3, 2013
Gallery A and Mayer Gallery

Ukara is an indigo dyed cloth used by members of the Ekpe secret society in the Cross River area of  Southeastern Nigeria, West Africa.  The cloth includes graphic signs known as nsibidi. Negotiation of the Secret Society Cloth is an exhibition exploring the history, variety of design patterns, process of creation, and the various uses based on research conducted by  Eli Bentor over the last twenty-two years.

This exhibition is presented in dialog with contemporary artist Victor Ekpuk who incorporates nsibidi designs in his work.


Dr. Eli Bentor, Professor of African Art History, Appalachian State University

Eli Bentor received his BA in Art History and African Studies from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and an MA and Ph.D. in African Art History from Indiana University. Eli’s research masquerade festivals in Southeastern Nigeria focuses on the way that history is reflected and negotiated at the Aro Ikeji festival. He has published on different aspects of Nigerian art history in African Art, Journal of Religion in Africa, and elsewhere. In 2008–09 he was a Senior Fellow at the Smithsonian Institution and received the first Cristián Samper Outstanding Fellow Award from the Smithsonian Institution.

Dr. Bentor has taught a variety of courses on classical and contemporary African art, cross-cultural studies of masks and masquerade, body art, contemporary art and music in Africa and the African Diaspora, and art and globalization.

To view installation images of this exhibition visit our Installation Album on Flickr.

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