Egúngún Masquerade Dance Costume (paka egúngún)
Arts of Africa
Swirling into motion, egúngún masquerade costumes appear during annual festivities to bless the community. Manifesting ancestral spirits, they serve as a bridge between the living and the otherworld. Paka egúngún, which escort more senior masks and perform whirling dances, are covered with fabric panels that create a dwelling place for ancestral spirits. Arranged and selected according to Yorùbá design sense (ojú-ọnà), this mask incorporates hundreds of African, Asian, and European fabrics. These include imported damasks, velvets, faux furs, and embroideries, as well as local indigo-dyed cottons.
Cotton, wool, wood, silk, synthetic textiles (including viscose rayon and acetate), indigo, and aluminum
est.: 55 x 6 x 63 in. (139.7 x 15.2 x 160 cm) (show scale)
Gift of Sam Hilu
Dance costume composed of a wooden beam, which rests on top of the head, draped in several layers of varied cotton and wool textile panels. Comparatively newer, resist-dyed and factory made cloths are on the outer layer of textile panels, while indigo-dyed panels are underneath. Textile panels are decorated with embossed and perforated aluminum geometric objects, sewed onto the surface.
Condition : good. Conservation backing has been sewn onto the back of the innermost layer of panels. Two longer panels are separate from the main assemblage.
This item is not on view
Yorùbá. Egúngún Masquerade Dance Costume (paka egúngún), ca. 1920-1948. Cotton, wool, wood, silk, synthetic textiles (including viscose rayon and acetate), indigo, and aluminum, est.: 55 x 6 x 63 in. (139.7 x 15.2 x 160 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Sam Hilu, 1998.125. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: , 1998.125_front_PS11.jpg)
front, 1998.125_front_PS11.jpg., 2018
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What is egungun?
Egungun is a Yoruba traditional masquerade danced once a year to call forth and pay respect to the ancestral dead, who reenter the community through these costumes.
What I like most about egungun is how ornamental the fabric are, the example we have here really showcases cross cultural exchange. Some of the fabrics
and dyes are produced locally, while others are traded.
Why are women barred from this practice in Africa?
Women are actually quite involved in masquerade, creating costumes, singing and dancing, as well as spectatorship. In general women simply do not wear wooden masks Africa is such a large continent with millions of people, so there are always exceptions! Women wear wooden masks in a few instances such as the Mende women in Sierra Leone who wear them in the Sande society.
The role of women in masquerade traditions is being challenged and critiqued by numerous contemporary art, nearby works by Zina Saro-Wiwa and Wura-Natasha Ogunji and Saya Woolfalk all are investigating femininity in relationship to wooden masks.