Gelede mask - 2010.45.38_1


Gelede mask

Maker: Unidentified Yoruba artist
Medium:Wood, pigment, fibre
Geography: Nigeria
Date: 1970
32.5 x 32 x 33.5 cm
Object number: 2010.45.38
Credit Line: The Jack Lieber Collection of Yoruba Art.
Not on view

Gelede masks are used in performances that celebrate the power of women. Among the Yoruba of Nigeria, women are believed to have equal or greater power than gods or ancestors. The Gelede spectacles are highly elaborate events which include dancing, drumming, chanting, and masquerade performances. They are meant to both entertain the bystanders and the spirits of the "mothers", who can bring great fortune or harm to the community. Gelede masquerades are usually danced in pairs. The wooden headdresses represent specific characters and often contain references to specific moral teachings or symbols. This mask combines Yoruba religion and Islamic symbols. The upper part of the mask is carved in the shape of a mosque framed within the arc of a rainbow, a symbol of the Yoruba divinity Osumare. The rainbow extends in the front and frames the face of the mask, recalling the striped turban wrap worn by Hausa people. The beard on the chin is both a reference to Islam and to the wisdom of elderly women. The beard is not necessarily an attribute of masculinity, but can be read as a visual representation of knowledge and experience.

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