Yoruba Artist, Òyó, Nigeria
Egúngún Masquerade Costume
19th-20th century; 1750-1850 (exterior velvet panels)
Cloth, cowrie shells, and wood
86 x 50 inches
Purchase through prior acquisitions
Currently Not on View
In Yoruba communities ancestors are described as “beings from beyond,” aptly personified by otherworldly Egúngún masks such as this one. These masks are worn at annual street festivals held in honor of the ancestors of a city’s founding lineages. This masquerade’s outer layers are made from imported velvets and factory manufactured cloth, while the inner layers are made of local handspun, hand-woven, indigo dyed cotton cloth. An abundance of cowrie shells adorn the front of the mask and cascade in multiple strands both above and below. It is capped by a carved wooden bird’s head, which projects from a circular platform densely embedded with additional shells.