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Highlights: Permanent Collection

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Image of Mask (Efe Gelede)

Yoruba Peoples

Mask (Efe Gelede)

20th century

Object Type: Sculpture
17 1/2 in. x Diam. 14 1/4 in. (44.45 cm x 35.56 cm)
Medium and Support: Wood and pigment
Accession Number: 2013.0017.0033

Credit Line: Gift of Dileep and Martha Mehta

This mask is worn by men in annual nighttime masquerades of the gelede society, a group that includes men and women and that honors female deities, ancestors, and elders. The gelede spectacle of masks, dance, songs and poetry is a gift, an act of praise honoring the life-giving forces of women. It appeases mothers and thus promotes social harmony and spiritual health.

This male mask is known as Efe. The crescent motif, sheathed knives, and leopards lend power to the mask, and the leopard biting the snake cautions potential evildoers of likely consequences. Gelede masks are worn on top of the head and are attached to elaborate costumes. They always feature a beautiful face and an elaborately carved superstructure.

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