Yoruba masks, and particularly masks gèlèdè, emanate from societies
characterised at the same time by unit and diversity around a common
origin :the city of Ilé-Ifé, where Yoruba thinks that the first man appeared.The
most part of Yoruba lived in Nigeria, where they constitute the biggest
urban civilisation of Western Africa, but are present on all Africain
continent, where they constitute cores tied to their origins.It explains the cultural diversity of groups, which invented a new identity according to their migrations.
The society of gelede is organised around the "mothers" and meets at night.The "mothers" are
then supposed to be transformed into birds and to be invited by souls
to examine the possible problems of the society.Although they are exclusively carried by men, it is by and for the women that manifest themselves masks gèlèdè.Ordered by a woman, it is in the women that contacts their dance.They
can also serve for welcoming the political authorities, for treating
problems in a more individual way, and for distracting.
of the gelede mask are underlined by scarifications on cheeks and
forehead, characteristic of yoruba civilisation, which counts dozens
varieties.The present type of scarification on this mask is called abaja.The wood chosen to be the manufacture of gèlèdè is a clear and light wood.Once sculpted, masks are coated with invisible substances by ancient, guarantors of the protection of the community.They are kept out of the view of the non-initiating, often above the home, the smoke of which has protective virtues.They can be used during about fifty years before being replaced.
Gelede masks are of a very big diversity :simple head with plaited hair, or combed of a hat, a scarf sometimes overcome of a load or a stage fixed with tops or ankles.All masks have protruding eyes, pierced in the centre and delimited by hemmed eyelids.The nose, slightly Roman, introduces rounded off bones. Here
the deep scarifications of the face and largeness of the hairstyle contrast
with the delicacy of the hairstyle and of the lines of the mouth with
the delicately hemmed lips.
J.Rivallain and F.A. Iroko, Yoruba.Masques et rituels africains, Paris, Hazan, on 2000
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