Reintegration / Ancestors

By Monica Demott
(formerly University of Iowa)

Yoruba peoples, Nigeriaegungun erin. Photo by Norma Wolff.

The egungun performer wears a costume that consists of brightly colored, patterned cloths and a headdress with a veil.  The performer's dance invokes the ancestors and conveys their presence.  The performer may race across the square seeming to charge the audience before rearing back and veering off in another direction.  Some performers incorporate a mechanism in their costume that allows their headdress suddenly to shoot up into the air.  These dramatic shifts in direction and in height refer to the omnipresence of the ancestors: they are here; then, there.  The ancestors' powerful, yet invisible presence is conveyed by the multiple layers of cloth that completely conceal the performer in a whirling display of color and movement.