Art and Death in A Yoruba Community

by Norma Wolff
Professor Emerita, Iowa State University

Yoruba peoples, Nigeria, egungun erin Fayo. Photo by Norma Wolff.

Egungun masqueraders are sources of great pride to the lineages from which they come. Members of the family accompany every masquerader singing the oriki (praise songs) of lineage and ancestors. The masqueraders who parade the streets are seen as the protectors of the community, the enforcers of morality, and the bestowers of blessings.  They are the enemies of witches and all those who do evil and the givers of children to those unable to conceive. The masqueraders through which the egungun is manifested can be considered ugly or beautiful by the audience but in either case are admired for the supernatural powers they have to affect the living.