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Egungun Masquerade Costume (work of art)

Artwork Info

Artist Details
Benin (Yoruba and Ouidah)
20th century-
20th Century
H. approx. 60 in.
(152.4 cm)


The Yoruba peoples honor their ancestors during the annual or biennial egungun ceremony. The tailor who fashioned this egungun costume appliquéd its panels with motifs drawn from Yoruba, Islamic, and European traditions. The wearer could see through the net face panel, which is adorned with cowrie shells, beads, and coins. When performing an acrobatic dance, he would spin rapidly so the fabric panels flew out, revealing the colorful layers of the costume.

The valuable fabrics and symbols of wealth such as cowrie shells, sequins, and beads are outward signs of the respect due to the ancestor. The inscription “AYELABOLA” on the back of the costume expresses profound regard for the moral and ethical stature of the ancestor by referring to the primordial deity, Olá, who embodies these values.

tags: pattern, movement, animals, collaboration, ritual, part/whole, variation, family


  • Yoruba Artist Egungun Masquerade Costume 20th Century Textile

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Purchased with funds provided through a bequest from Lucile E. Moorman