Art and Death in A Yoruba Community

by Norma Wolff
Professor Emerita, Iowa State University

Carver working on crest mask, Yoruba peoples, Abeokuta, Nigeria. Photo by Norma H. Wolff.

Individual owners and their lineages take great pride in the beauty of particular masqueraders. Before the annual egungun festival, masks may be repainted and refurbished.  Those owners who want the finest work take their masks back to the carving compound where they were created.  In Adugbologe compound in Itoko, home of one of the two major carving lineages of Abeokuta, a carver such as Alani, great-grandson of the compound founder, gives special treatment to a mask, stripping the paint if it has built up too much and making repairs as needed.  Unlike the initial carving of a mask where sacrifices by carver and owner are needed, repainting and repair do not necessitate special ritual treatment.