Yoruba Gelede Masquerade

by Henry J. Drewal
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Freshly-painted Gelede masks depicting female coiffures and headties, Ketu-Yoruba, Nigeria, 1978. Photo by H.J. Drewal and M.T. Drewal. Submitted by Henry Drewal.

A group of freshly-painted Gelede masks depicting women with a variety of finely braided and fashionable hairstyles, some wrapped in cloth headties, await the arrival of the masqueraders who will wear them in the afternoon performance.  Most of these were carved by several generations of sculptors in the Awori-Yoruba area northwest of Lagos where these masks danced.  While some faces are painted in various shades of brown to heighten their realism, others have contrasting colors to emphasize the clarity of features, lines, and forms in the work.