Art and Death in A Yoruba Community

by Norma Wolff
Professor Emerita, Iowa State University

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

Other types of egungun greatly appreciated by the audience are those that entertain by parodying social persona and events in the community.  They are an integral part of the egungun festival as they call attention to the foibles of individual and human behavior. Egungun arede is entertaining and humorous in its parody of the prideful Yoruba woman wearing a fashionable lace woman's outfit.  The owner and wearer of this masquerade is known for the quality of its dress, which he changes each year to meet the demands of fashion.  He also has a wide repertoire of dances, which he can perform with skill and grace.  To depict the female gender, a masquerader may wear a decorated hood, a wood hairpiece with a woman's hairstyle and a cloth facemask, or a crest mask depicting a woman's head.  A tailor devises cloth breasts that can be worn underneath the blouse to heighten the effect.