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 erin Fayo, like all erin masqueraders wears the large eared crest mask with carved representations of ado medicine gourds lined across the forehead, a gangan talking drum carried between the ears, and an animal clinging to the back.  However, it is not the finely carved mask that is most appreciated by the audience.  Rather it is the costume of the erin masquerader that is a focus for aesthetic appreciation and discussion.  Egungun erin Fayo was particularly admired for the elaboration of the alagabaa (headpiece) that holds a profusion of ostrich feathers, the expensive beads on the forehead, and the gold mesh used to cover the face. The cloth panels on the front were made by special tailors who sew only for masqueraders.