Death and Rebirth

By Christopher D. Roy
University of Iowa

Nigeria; Yoruba artist

Egun Elure or Egun Ida (dance crest)

Wood, cloth, coins, metal, pigment

H. 47.0 cm (18 ½”)

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

Among the Yoruba the masquerade called egungun honors the ancestors and celebrates their moral authority.  Members of each family accompany the masks as they parade through the town, singing songs of praise for their ancestors.  The masks are admired for the supernatural power they use to overcome witchcraft and those who do evil in the community. The spirits themselves may be either gentle or wild.  Individual owners and their lineages take great pride in the expense they have undertaken to make their mask beautiful and elaborate.  The mask seen here has been stripped of the colorful and expensive cloth costume with which it was worn, and which was usually much more costly to create than the carved wooden portion in the museum.