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Yoruba Gelede Mask with Bird and Snake Nigeria African Art

Regular Price: $490.00

Special Price: $290.00

Product #: 99265
US Shipping: $31.98
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Title Yoruba Gelede Mask with Bird and Snake Nigeria Africa
Type of Object Mask
Country of Origin Nigeria
People Yoruba
Materials Wood, pigment, metal sheeting, nails
Approximate Age Second half 20th century
Dimensions 16.5 inches Tall x 11 inches Wide x 9 inches Deep
Overall Condition Fair. 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 Cracks, scratches, general wear; see pictures for detail


Additional Information:  This Gelede mask comes from the Yoruba who live along the boundary between southwestern Nigeria and present day Benin (Dahomey).   Ths Gelede form is clear here: the downward facing gaze and subtle scarification on the cheeks accompanied by the round forehead.  Gelede masks are often decorated with animals or other motifs on top; this one has an abstract hairstyle.  The Yoruba are known to apply colorful pigments to the facial features, too.  Red, white and blue pigments are applied in layers here.  This mask is danced as part of an ornate Engungun costume. 


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 multicolored 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, Daniel, 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.