The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Yoruba Gelede Masquerade

by Henry J. Drewal
University of Wisconsin, Madison

A young Gelede performer, Egbado-Yoruba, Nigeria, 1978. Photo by H.J. Drewal and M.T. Drewal. Submitted by Henry Drewal.


The afternoon after Efe night is reserved for the performance of an elaborate series of Gelede maskers whose images and actions embellish and intensify reality to create exaggerated visions of maleness and femaleness and specific social groups and roles. The maskers, all males, impersonate both men and women.  The first to appear are the youngest dancers, enthusiastically encouraged by friends and relatives who gather around them as they attempt their first steps to the intricate, changing rhythms of the drummers.  Their dance instructors in the Gelede society follow closely, giving advice and encouragement during the performance.