From the personal Collection of Elizabeth Bennett and Sara F. Luther.
Exhibited at the South Dakota Art Museum
Published in the catalog: Daniel Mato, PhD., Chelsea Cooksey, YORUBA: AN ART OF LIFE. The Bennett-Luther Collection Africa Direct, Denver, Colorado, 2004, fig.43, p. 56
Additional Information: Two abstract crocodiles with four carved human faces frame the top of the headdress. Red on one side, black on the other, it sits atop a multi-colored cloth base
( the folded cloth serves to soften the burden for the head of the dancer). The single crest form is akin to the hunter's hairstyle of the Yoruba deity Eshu, who is often shown with a long ponytail and is symbolically linked with the colors nd black. (Description from the Book by Daniel Mato, PhD., Chelsea Cooksey, YORUBA: AN ART OF LIFE. fig. 43, p. 54 p )
Among the Yoruba of Nigeria, masqueraders known as Ere Egungun dance to represent and celebrate the ancestors known as Ara Orun - or Beings from beyond . The Yoruba see the world as a continuum composed of the living and the dead with the ancestor ever present in the life of an individual, their family, and town. Egungun dancers completely covered in voluminous cloths or in costumes surmounted by a carved headdress appear during ceremonies honoring the ancestors or will dance to represent present lineage members. Egungun masquerades were noted as early as 1826 and the tradition continues among the Yoruba today combining long established traditions and contemporary imagery. Egungun masquerades combine the use of a number of brightly colored cloths that at times appear to be simply piled on the dancers head and covering the body or the cloth will be surmounted by carved headpieces of human and animal forms. This covering of the body, literally hiding the dancer and creating a sense of mystery and ambiguity is found in the very meaning of the word Egungun, "The powers concealed" This is a particularly complete example of an Egungun headpiece consisting of a wooden carved headpiece with four faces . The age and long use of this mask can be seen on the surface, on details of the facial features and markings. This wonderful example of an Egungun masquerade is a true connoisseurs object and worthy of a museum collection.
It must be kept in mind that this wonderful carving would surmount a large costume of different colored cloths completely covering the dancers body and thereby creating the sense of mystery and awe so integral to the appearance of Egungun. The dancer would be completely covered by the cloth with their face covered by cloth netting to allow them see while dancing. collection.
Reference: Drewal, H.J., J. Pemberton, R. Abiodun, Yoruba; Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought. 1989. Thompson, R. F, Black Gods and Kings 1971.