Art and Death in A Yoruba Community

by Norma Wolff
Professor Emerita, Iowa State University

Egungun. Yoruba peoples, Nigeria. Photo by Norma H. Wolff.

When an egungun erin comes down from the sacred bush where rituals were carried out for his safety and empowerment, members of the sponsoring linage and those who have been blessed by that particular egungun rush to meet it.  Every egungun erin is accompanied by many drummers and dancers as it moves through the streets of Itoko.  The attendants will be well dressed as befits the "rich man's egungun."  There may also be someone from the family preceding the egungun carrying a carving, flag, or even photo of the masquerader, all these are referred to as esho (decoration).  In this case, a boy carries a carving, which is emblematic of Erinle, a god of hunting and herbalism, indicating that the owner was also a worshipper of that deity.