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Egungun Masquerade Costume

African Art

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Egungun Masquerade Costume

Artwork Details


Yoruba Artist, Oyo, Nigeria


eighteenth–twentieth century (exterior velvet panels: 1750–1850)


Cloth, cowrie shells, and wood

Accession #



86 x 50 inches


On View - Stent Family Wing, Skyway, Gallery 401


In Yoruba communities, ancestors are described as “beings from beyond,” fittingly personified by otherworldly Egungun masks such as this one. These masks are worn at annual street festivals held in honor of the ancestor of a city’s founding lineages. Each of the mask’s material components has meaning. The outer layers are made from imported velvets to convey social prestige through the display of luxurious cloth. The inner layers are made of indigo-dyed, handspun cotton cloth. Cowrie shells, used in Ifa divination and in the past as a form of currency, cascade profusely.


Purchase through prior acquisitions