231166 - Old Yoruba Gelede Head mask - Nigeria.


Old African Geleda Head mask from the Yoruba, Nigeria.
Carved from a single piece of wood, with color pigments.
Height: 48 cm x 27 cm.
This mask is collected in 1940s
This Articulated headdress is carved from light wood. The human face represents a man. It is cut with the classic Yoruba facial features: heavy eyelids, bulging almond-shaped eyes, flared nose and pressed full lips. The pupils and nostrils are roughly pierced with holes. Three scarification lines are incised on the forehead and both cheeks. They are colored black. These scarification lines are called pele, which many communities in southwestern Yorubaland regard as “gems” on the human face. The ears are shaped like question marks. Taken as a whole, the facial features exemplify supremacy, severity and calmness.This Gelede mask comes from the Yoruba who live along the border between southwestern Nigeria and present-day Benin (Dahomey). The Gelede shape is clear here: the downward gaze and subtle scarification on the cheeks accompanied by the rounded forehead. Articulated masks are often decorated with animals or other motifs on them. The Yoruba are also known to apply colorful pigments to their facial features.Beneath the Yoruba Gelede masks dance the 'mothers', good witches who propitiate and control the power of the 'evil' witches who fly in the night and cause human misfortune, disease and death. When Gelede appears, they dance in pairs in a tightly structured and complexly choreographed dance, accompanied by singing and drumming. Most 'witch-catching' Gelede masks are carved from a single piece of wood and worn on the top of the head over the forehead, with a multi-colored costume consisting of numerous panels of brightly colored fabric that completely cover the body from head to toe. The fabric panels flare outwards while dancing, giving the dancer a dynamic appearance. Articulated performances can extend over several days with different dance forms and movements. When performing the masks you dance as a coordinated pair, often with mirror-like movements, during an athletic and powerful dance that often interacts with the audience. Their energetic dance moves often kick up dust making it seem as if they are floating above the earth and the anklets they wear enhance the rhythm of the music. Articulated masks will also reflect local traditions of facial marking and symbolic headdresses, while this example is reminiscent of the beautiful and classically scul