00:00
/
00:00
Unknown Maker
Cap Mask of the Gelede Society Cap Mask of the Gelede Society
20th century 20th century

The Gelede society of the southwestern Yoruba commission such cap masks for its annual festival to honour the “Mothers”: female deities, ancestors and elders of the community. The festival includes sculpture, song and dance to honour the beneficial powers of women and discourage negative forces, such as witchcraft. Women are perceived as holding the secret of life and thus they must be appeased to foster social harmony and prosperity.

Typical of Gelede masks, this one is worn on the head like a cap, with an attached veil hiding the male dancer’s face. The dancers perform in pairs, wearing layers of highly patterned, colourful cloth. The mask features a face with a composed expression and scarification marks, topped by an elaborate superstructure. Here, two criss-crossed snakes attack a pangolin, their mouths attached to the animal¿s rear. This composition is a Yoruba visual riddle, in which either the mammal or the snake could be seen as the conqueror, depending on one¿s perspective. Many superstructures are far more elaborate than this one, and may depict satirical scenes or tableaux offering social comment, sometimes incorporating modern elements such as motorcycles and airplanes.

 
Unknown Maker
Yoruba peoples Yoruba peoples
Cap Mask of the Gelede Society Cap Mask of the Gelede Society
20th century 20th century
wood wood
height / width / depth: 38.00 x 28.50 x 33.50 cm; 14.96 x 11.22 x 13.19 in.
Gift of Justin and Elisabeth Lang, 1984 Gift of Justin and Elisabeth Lang, 1984
M84-223

Subscribe to our “This Week at Agnes” e-newsletter to stay abreast of events, news and opportunities at the art museum.