Yoruba Gelede Masquerade

by Henry J. Drewal
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Gelede masker resting during performance, Egbado-Yoruba, Nigeria, 1971. Photo by H.J. Drewal and M.T. Drewal. Submitted by Henry Drewal.  

 

Located between the Weme River in the Republic of Benin (RPB) and the Ogun River in southwestern Nigeria, western Yoruba-speaking peoples (Ketu, Egbado, Ohori, and Anago) are renowned for an elaborate masked performance tradition known as Gelede.  The Ketu-Yoruba people are credited with the invention of Gelede sometime in the latter part of the eighteenth century according to oral traditions throughout the region.  A popular Yoruba saying proclaims, oju to ba ri Gelede ti de opin iran ("The eyes that have seen Gelede, have seen the ultimate spectacle!"). Gelede's affective power and impact comes from its multi-media format in which the arts of song, dance, costume and music combine to create moving artistic experiences.