Art and Death in A Yoruba Community

by Norma Wolff
Professor Emerita, Iowa State University

Yoruba peoples, Nigeria, egungun masquerade. Photo by Norma Wolff.

Egungun masqueraders that come out during the annual festival have distinct personalities. Two major types are distinguished.  Egungun jeje are gentle.  They move slowly about the town as they dance and are surrounded by men and women wearing nice clothing to complement it. Egungun ijanjuku are wild and uncontrolled.  Their behavior is the opposite of what is desirable; it is unpredictable and dangerous.  Those who accompany ijanjuku will wear dirty and worn clothing, and women may wear men's clothing or bare their breasts.