What can you tell by looking at the coiffure of a Yoruba mask or statue?

The purpose for masks and sculptures is to mediate between the present and the spiritual world. For this reason the hairstyles on masks and statues are usually those worn by the priests of  the local orisa cult.  Conical raised up - that would be the style.

Babies usually have their heads shaved at the naming ceremony (at 7 or 9 days after birth). With the exception of twins, who are considered sacred and thus their heads are not shaved. Twin boys and girls wear the same coiffures regardless of their sex.

Boys and young men shave off their hair and mustache until old age.



Girls and women wear their hair long and braided. Corn rows of all varieties are common, some quite intricate. Coiffures of unmarried women are not as elaborate as hairstyles of their married counterparts.

By looking at a sculpture can you decipher the status of the man by their hair? Yes. Rich men and princes wore three patches of hair in the front, center and back of the head. Hunters and leaders of the guard wore a braid in the middle of the head, long, hanging to the left side. Often it was placed inside a cloth or a cap. Many Yoruba masks and sculpted heads portray such hair style. In the past, to distinguish them from other men, royal messengers would shave half of their heads.





Written by Vera Raskin — January 15, 2014

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