The Gelede cult pays homage to the power of elderly women who ensure the fertility and well-being of the community. The mask festivals called Efe/Gelede are celebrated among the subgroups of the southwestern Yorubaland. It is usually held between March and May, when the rains arrive and a new agricultural cycle begins. The masquerades, songs, and dances are in honor of “our mothers,” whose power is especially manifest in elderly women, female ancestors, and female orisha (goddesses). Through song, dance, and costume, the underlying truth of the power and authority of woman in a male-oriented society is acknowledged. During Gelede festivities, helmet masks and headdresses carved in the form of a human face are worn. The sculptured motifs, which appear on Gelede masks, are almost infinite in their variety. They are as diffuse as social experience, for the spiritual power of “the mothers,” for whom Gelede is performed, is attentive to every aspect of social life. The Gelede society wore masks on top of the head like a cap.
29" x 14" x 14" (Petals add an additional 5" to the width)
Exhibited at “Celebrating African-American Heritage”
AlfaArt Gallery, New Brunswick, NJ February 2014