Yoruba Gelede Masquerade

by Henry J. Drewal
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Gelede honoring male social role and order, Egbado-Yoruba, Nigeria, 1978. Photo by H.J. Drewal and M.T. Drewal. Submitted by Henry Drewal.

Recognition of male roles is another theme in Gelede headdresses. The superstructure of this mask depicts an important personage seated at the summit, his symbol of authority in his right hand, an elder's hat on his head, and a beaded necklace around his neck.  He is flanked by two standing attendants, the one on the left dressed in a guard's uniform.  While celebrating male leadership, the composition visually conveys ideas about balance and stability in the social order.  The most important person is elevated, centered, and seated, while those less important stand on platforms at the sides.  Together these three figures evoke a segment of the social order—an olori (leader or head) supported by otun and osi (right and left-hand assistants).