Reintegration / Ancestors

By Monica Demott
(formerly University of Iowa)

Nigeria; Yoruba peoples

Egun Elure or Egun Ida (dance crest)

Wood, cloth, coins, metal, pigment

H. 47.0 cm (18 ½”)

The University of Iowa Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.240

The egungun masquerade of Yoruba peoples is concerned with the veneration of important ancestors and emphasizes the continuing participation of the dead in the affairs of the living.  The term egungun means "powers concealed," and refers to the ancestor's ability to assist the living from the other world, orun, in which the dead dwell (Drewall 1978: 18).  Over the past two hundred years, regional variations in the egungun cult have developed, but the central elements of the masquerade have remained constant.  The masquerades are held at funeral ceremonies and at the annual (or biennial) festivals for the ancestors.  The field photograph shows an egungun mask in a Yoruba community, and the video shows a mask in performance.

Yoruba peoples, Nigeria, egungun masquerade. Photo by Norma Wolff.

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Benin; Yoruba peoples. Egungun Masquerade. Video by Dana Rush.