The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Yoruba Gelede Masquerade

by Henry J. Drewal
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Gelede with female coiffure, Ketu-Yoruba, Lagos, Nigeria, 1978. Photo by H.J. Drewal and M.T. Drewal. Submitted by Henry Drewal.  


Gelede imagery evokes and comments upon aspects of Yoruba society, praising positive, productive contributions or damning destructive, antisocial ones.  The images in the masks are diverse and encompassing because "our mothers" are oni l'oni aye ("the owners of the world") and society constitutes "the children of our mothers."  While the maskers are male, the masks depict both females and males, either generalized or in more specific representations of a wide variety of female and male roles and activities by means of coiffure, headgear, objects associated with such roles, or genre scenes depicting them.  This Gelede performer depicts a female with a finely braided coiffure.