15 3/4 in. x 12 in. x 13 in. (40 cm x 30.5 cm x 33 cm)
Bryn Mawr College
31 (Neufeld Collection Number)
Ceremonial and Performance Artifacts; Masks
Yoruba, Beninese, West African, African
Gelede masks are used in Yoruba society to honor mothers in both the spiritual and living realms. The Yoruba ascribe spiritual, mystical, and magical powers to mothers, who are able to bestow either blessings or curses. As holders of the secret of life, older women are deemed perhaps even more powerful than ancestors or gods.
These masks are used during the annual Gelede ceremonies, which often coincide with the beginning of the agricultural season and are performed to pay tribute to the special power of women and to ensure the well-being of the entire community.
This mask portrays calmness and composure, qualities valued in older women, while the lateral facial bands are associated with scarification patterns, a sign of cultural identity.
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- Refers to the cultures of the continent of Africa, which is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea.
- Style and culture of the people of Bénin, particularly of the modern inhabitants. For the style and culture of the more ancient people of southern Nigeria, use "Benin."
- Refers to works executed by cutting a figure or design out of a solid material such as stone or wood. It typically refers to works that are relatively small in size, are part of a larger work, or are not considered art. For large and medium-sized three-dimensional works of art, use the broader term "sculpture" or another appropriate term.
- Masquerades held by the secret society named Gelede of the Yoruba people of West Africa, performed by masked, costumed dancers, often impersonating women, for the purpose of placating the older women of the community and encouraging them to use their powers for community well-being; they are held when society members die, and during the society's annual festival, on the afternoon following the nightlong performance of the Efe masquerade.
- Refers to coverings for all or part of the face, usually with openings for the eyes and sometimes the mouth. They are worn to hide or alter the identity of the wearer or for protection. Masks as cultural objects have been used throughout the world in all periods since the Stone Age. Masks are extremely varied in appearance, function, and fundamental meaning. They may be associated with ceremonies that have religious and social significance or are concerned with funerary customs, fertility rites, or curing sickness. They may be used on festive occasions or to portray characters in a dramatic performance and in re-enactments of mythological events. They may be used for warfare and as protective devices in certain sports. They are also employed as architectural ornaments.
- The art and practice of applying pigments suspended in water, oil, egg yolk, molten wax, or other liquid to a surface to create an expressive or communicative image. Paint is usually, but not always, applied with a brush. For the application of paint primarily to protect a surface or add a general color, use "painting (coating)."
- Objects used for a particular ritual activity, often as part of a ceremony.
- Refers to the upper portions of buildings or other structures located above the foundation and usually above ground level.
- Styles and cultures from the region comprising the westernmost area of the African continent, defined by the United Nations as including the modern nations of Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.
- The principal tissue of trees and other plants that provides both strength and a means of conducting nutrients. Wood is one of the most versatile materials known.
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This object was included in the following exhibitions:
Worlds to Discover: 125 Years of Collections at Bryn Mawr College
Bryn Mawr College
, 9/24/2010 - 5/28/2011
Owner Name: Mace Neufeld and Helen Katz Neufeld, Class of 1953
Place: Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, US
The following Bibliography exist for this object:
and Emily Croll.
Worlds to Discover.
Bryn Mawr College.
Bryn Mawr, PA, 2010
Page Number: 32
"African Heritage Document and Research Center."
(Accessed June 11, 2020):
Record No.: 0180362.
Related Bibliography List
The following Related Bibliography exist for this object:
Henry John Drewal,
"Gelede Masquerade: Imagery and Motif."
7, no. 4
8-19, 62-63, 95-96.
Margaret Thompson Drewal
and Henry John Drewal.
"Gelede Dance of the Western Yoruba."
8, no. 2
Stefan Eisenhofer, ed.
Kulte, Künstler, Könige in Afrika: Tradition und Moderne in Südnigeria
(Linz, Austria: des Oberösterreichisches Landesmuseums, 1977),
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This object is a member of the following portfolios: