Yoruba Gelede Masquerade

by Henry J. Drewal
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Gelede with snakes and gourd rattles, Egbado-Yoruba, Nigeria, 1977. Photo by H.J. Drewal and M.T. Drewal. Submitted by Henry Drewal.

 

This Gelede mask displays two snakes wrapped around gourd rattles at the sides of a peaked hairstyle.  The rattles are the regalia of priestesses whose spiritual powers are evoked by the snakes. Notice that the face of the male performer is clearly seen through the thin veil of cloth.  Unlike other Yoruba masking traditions where the performers' identity must be hidden because they deal with spiritual forces, Gelede maskers can be seen since they focus on forces in the world.