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Baule, Yaure, Attie,
Democratic Republic of Congo
wood and pigments, 13" (34 cm)
62. Yoruba Egungun headdress, Nigeria, wood and pigments, 13" (34 cm)|
John Pemberton 3rd, in “Yoruba, Art of West Africa” has written the following regarding Egungun rituals: “Festivals for the ancestors, Odun Egungun, are celebrated in every region of Yorubaland. Egungun means “masquerade,” but it is universally identified with the masquerades for the ancestors, those who founded the lineage and who, as the living dead, continue to affect the lives of the living.
In addition to their appearance at the annual festival, the masquerades for the ancestors may be called forth at times of crises in the life of a family, as in the death of an elder, or in the life of a town, when disease or witchcraft lay waste the energy of a people. Then the life-sustaining power of the ancestors is called upon and worshipped.”
I chose this particular mask for the exhibit not only for the bold and unusual carving but for its color. Oftentimes our concepts of African art are based on materials that have been brought to Western civilisations based on our own taste. In the case of the Egungun masks, the highly refined and naturalistic masks with deep, polished patinas from years of use, are the most in demand. This overlooks the significance and ritual importance of color in most African societies. Color is indeed as important as form. This is certainly true for the Yoruba, whose masquerades are full of living, vibrant and deeply symbolic colors.
Relative to the ancestors, it should be noted that Yoruba culture has been continuous for nearly two thousand years , giving the Yoruba a sense of continuity and tradition, both sacred and secular, hardly imagined in Western cultures.
Collection of Tookalook Tribal Arts
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