Yoruba Gelede Masquerade

by Henry J. Drewal
University of Wisconsin, Madison

An eko marketwoman. Egbado-Yoruba, Nigeria, 1978. Photo by H.J. Drewal and M.T. Drewal. Submitted by Henry Drewal.


The Yoruba markets are controlled by women.  To honor women's economic power and contributions, many Gelede headdresses depict women's heads carrying the goods they sell in the marketplace.  This mask portrays a woman's head balancing a gourd tray and large woven basket filled with folded banana leaves containing steamed eko (corn meal), a favorite staple food in western Yorubaland.  The mask was carved by the famous Egbado-Yoruba sculptor named Oduntan Aina probably in the late 19th century.