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Efe/Gelede Headdress, Apasa Permanent Collection:
Sub-Saharan African Art:
Efe/Gelede Headdress, Apasa

Nigeria, Yoruba, Ohori. Late 19th - early 20th centuries A.D. Wood, pigment. 16 1/2 x 10 1/4 x 13 in. (42 x 26 x 33 cm). 1994.4.776

The masquerade performed by the Gelede society is an annual event in western Yorubaland. The Gelede festival honors older Yoruba women, who are equally referred to as "our mothers" (awon iya wa) and "witches" (aje). The double identity of these women epitomizes the Yoruba understanding of the complex dichotomies of the universe - both in the earth (aye) and in the otherworld (orun). These females can be either nurturing or destructive. The masquerade is designed to elicit nurturing and protection from "our mothers."

The Gelede masquerade consists of nighttime (Efe) and daytime (Gelede) performances, with different masks worn for each event. In the example here the masculinity of the Efe mask is represented in the flat, vertically striped, abstracted beard.


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