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Yoruba Gelede Mask Museum Exhibit Nigeria African Art

Product #: 98458
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Title Yoruba Gelede Mask with Animal on Top Nigeria Africa
Type of Object Gelede Mask
Country of Origin Nigeria
People Yoruba
Materials wood, paint, pigment
Approximate Age mid 20th century
Dimensions Height: 14 inches. Depth: 18 inches. Width: 8 inches.
Overall Condition Poor. Most of our pieces have spent decades on at least two continents, and have been treasured by several owners. Small splits, scrapes and cracks are a normal part of their patina attesting to their age and extensive use. We examine each piece carefully when we receive it and report any damage we find in our listings. Please look carefully at the pictures which may also reveal condition and damage.
Damage/Repair A deep age crack run along the right side of the head and there is an unexplained hole in the right ear and chips in places

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.28, p. 42

Additional Information: 

"A well-worn Gelede mask once brightly painted with white face and indigo hair; more recently repainted in shades of red, black, and white. parallel marks on the forehead indicate scarification and a spotted animal represents protection from witches and sorcerers".

 This Gelede mask is used by the Yoruba who live along the boundary between southwestern Nigeria and present day Benin (Dahomey). It shows a female with a large rounded coiffure. Among the Yoruba Gelede masks dance of the mothers, good witches who propitiate and control the power of the bad witches who fly at night causing human misfortune, illness, and death. When Gelede appear, they dance in pairs in a tightly structured and complexly choreographed dance accompanied by singing and drumming. Most ?witch-catching? Gelede masks are carved from a single piece of wood to be worn on the top of the head over the forehead with a multi-colored costume made up of numerous panels of brightly colored cloth completely covering the body from head to foot. The panels of cloth will flare outwards while being danced giving the dancer a dynamic appearance. Gelede performances may extend over a number of days with different dance forms and movements. When performing the masks dance as a coordinated pair often with mirror-like movements during in an athletic and vigorous dance that often interacts with the audience. Their energetic dance steps will often kick up the dust so that they appear to float above the earth and the anklet bells that they wear reinforce the rhythm of the music. Gelede masks will also reflect local traditions of facial marking and symbolic headdress whereas this example brings to mind the beautiful and classic sculpted heads of ancient Ife.

Recommended Reading:

Drewal , H. J. and J. Pemberton III, with R. Abiodun Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought, (New York, 1989)

Drewal, H. J. and M. Thompson Drewal., Gelede, Art and Female Power among the Yoruba. 1983.

 Fagg, W. and J. Pemberton III: Yoruba Sculpture of West Africa, (New York, 1982)

Lawal, B.: The Gelede Spectacle. Art, Gender, and Social Harmony in an African Culture. (Seattle, London 1996)

Mato, D., Chelsea Cooksey, Yoruba: Art of Life. The Bennett-Luther Collection, Denver 2004 

Witte, H.: A Closer Look; Local Styles in the Yoruba Art Collection of the Afrika Museum, Berg en Dal. 2004.

I have examined this piece and agree with the description.

Niangi Batulukisi, PhD.