The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Yoruba Gelede Masquerade

by Henry J. Drewal
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Oro Efe in performance, Ketu-Yoruba, Nigeria, 1971. Photo by H.J. Drewal and M.T. Drewal. Submitted by Henry Drewal.


Gelede performances take place in the marketplace, the domain primarily of women.  They begin with a night ceremony known as Efe. A series of masked dancers culminates in the appearance of Oro Efe, “the Voice of Efe”—an elaborately attired masker who moves through the crowd singing and dancing.  His elaborate headdress is covered with images of power both spiritual and physical—leopard, snakes and knives evoking the iron and war god Ogun and birds signaling the sacred powers of women.