Yoruba Gelede Masquerade

by Henry J. Drewal
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Gelede of a mat seller, Egbado-Yoruba, Nigeria, 1977. Photo by H.J. Drewal and M.T. Drewal. Submitted by Henry Drewal.


This Gelede portrays a female mat seller.  Mats, woven and dyed by women, are an important market item created in several Egbado-Yoruba towns from where they are transported to various markets in the region.  Here a mat is folded and balanced on the woman's head.  The cloth costume, created with headties borrowed from women in the community, signifies their support and blessing for the performer, his family, and the larger community.  Notice the flywhisk in his hand and the leg rattles at his ankles—both are used to embellish his dance movements, intensifying and accentuating the intricate rhythms of the drummed phrases.