Egungun Masquerade Dance Costume (ekuu egungun)

early 20th century

Yoruba Peoples
Place Made
Nigeria: Oyo Region
Cloth, metallic thread, glass beads, cowrie shells
59 x 39 x 27 in (149.86 x 99.06 x 68.58 cm)
Credit Line
Museum purchase, Friends of Ethnographic Art Fund
Accession #

Masquerades for the ancestors are known as 'egungun' (power concealed). The body of dancer is completely covered by layer upon layer of cloth. On occasion one can tell the age of a masquerade by examination of the clothes used, since it is not unusual for new cloths to be added each year. The under layers of this costume reveal very old indigo dyed cloth made of homespun cotton.

The outer layers are made of machine made cloth, including velvet. Cowrie shells, symbols of wealth, frame the sides of the masker's head, are used in horizontal rows below the face and descend in parallel columns on the front of the costume. The wealth and status of the family, as well as the power of the ancestors are celebrated this assemblage of materials."