Headdress, Nigeria

Dramatic Headdress for Gelede Masquerade, To Both Honor and Placate Powerful Women
Yoruba, Nigeria
20th century
Wood; Hair of Hemp or Vegetal Fiber
6.5”h (16.5cm) x 10”w (25.4cm) x 13”d (33cm)
Provenance: a Berkeley Collection


Male masqueraders at Gelede festivals wear brightly colored wood headdresses to honor mothers and all women, including ancestors, elders, and deities, and to ward off evil spirits. Drumming and singing accompany the scripted dancing, and an elaborate and bulky costume is worn that emphasizes the desired women’s ample breasts, buttocks, and heft. The festivals and dances also aim to appease the great power of women, lest it be destructive in the form of witchcraft.

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