210221 - Tribal used Old Yoruba Gelede Head mask - Nigeria.


African Gelede Head mask from the Yoruba, Nigeria.

This type of mask is used at the Yoruba Epa festival where the fertility of the soil and the prosperity of the men are conjured.

and carved from a single piece of wood, with color pigments.

Height: 48 cm

The Gelede spectacle of the Yoruba is a public display by colorful masks which combines art and ritual dance to amuse, educate and inspire worship. Gelede celebrates “Mothers” (awon iya wa), a group that includes female ancestors and deities as well as the elderly women of the community, and the power and spiritual capacity these women have in society. Focusing not only on fertility and motherhood but also on correct social behavior within the Yoruba society.

Gelede masks are worn with a costume consisting of layers of elaborate, colorful cloth.

The Gelede "mask" is more accurately a headdress, since it rests on top of the head and the wearer's face is covered by a cloth veil. The headdress takes the form of a human head, on top of which are motifs that are intended to entertain onlookers but, in addition, usually address social concerns that may also be expressed in songs that are part of the masquerade. The headdresses are usually brightly painted.

Within the Gelede festival there are many different headdresses being used. The most common variations being: the Ori Eniyan, or human head. Within this group there are three subcategories. Those that have hairdos, those with head wraps or hats, and those carrying small creatures or objects. This mask is the most commonly associated with the Gelede performances.

Then there is the Iya, or Great Mother head. Igi Efe, or the Efe headress. The Oloju Meji, the double faced mask. Eleru, or head with a superstructure. This headdress has various topics such as the Ritual Bowl Carrier, occupations, religion, portraits, and satire. Followed by the Onidofoyi headdress, or the two human heads connected by snakes mask. The Ori Eye or bird head mask and the Ori Eranko, or the animal head mask.

Individuals or families will usually go to any length to make their headdresses as attractive and humorous as possible. The endless variety of the motifs and their combinations makes it difficult to attempt to construct a typology of Gelede headdresses.Most of the headdresses have facial adornments, ranging from lineage marks to decorative tattoos, which are either incised or painted.

Babatunde Lawal writes: "The headdress is to the costume what the head (ori) is to the human body. It is an index of identification and the essence of the masker's personality as long as he is inside the mask. In spite of the comical representations that often appear on the headdress, the face below the superstructure remains serene, as if stressing the paradox that is life - and the need to live life with special care."

The Costumes of the Gelede performance directly relate to the connection of women and motherhood of the society. Consisting of a baby sash, breasts, buttocks, metal anklets, colored panels, a horsetail whisk, and a fan, the materials of the Gelede costumes have various connotations. For example the baby sash represents a breast feeding mother while also being a support within the costume itself. The daytime performances of the Gelede festival are more elaborate and colorful compared to the nighttime performances, with the exception of the Efe costume. This is because during the nighttime performances the costumes are harder to see, so it would be counterproductive to have really elaborate costumes that wouldn't be seen.2