Headdress (ere Gelede)



Yoruba peoples, Awori subgroup
Late 19th century
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General Description

This headdress demonstrates Yoruba idealized naturalism: youthful beauty and a calm and composed expression on a symmetrical face. The sculptor carefully carved the hairstyle with five striated mounds, which represent braids rising above a wide band of artfully arranged hair. Although the eyes are pierced, the headdress was worn on top of the head. Ere Gelede are usually carved in pairs and painted with vibrant colors that have to be periodically refreshed. Male dancers entertain while wearing them with colorful costumes that relate to the human or animal character depicted on the mask.

This headdress was worn in annual Gelede society festivals that entertain female deities and elderly women and encourage them to use their mysterious and formidable spiritual powers for the good of the community. In this extraordinary headdress, which was originally painted with natural pigments, a masterful, imaginative sculptor conveys women’s covert spiritual powers and their external beauty.

Excerpt from

Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, Arts of Africa, 2015.