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Egungun Dance Costume

Arts of Africa

On View: Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Gallery, 5th Floor
This type of egungun costume is found throughout the Oyo region of southwestern Nigeria. It consists of a length of wood balanced on the head, from which panels of cloth are suspended. Its great rectangular form completely conceals the human body, transforming the costumed wearer into a returned ancestor.

Because the cloths composing the costume are of great value and prestige, they enhance the status of the families associated with the masks. The mask embodies the spirits of the ancestral dead, who reenter the community annually in swirling, whirling moments of high drama and spiritual significance.
MEDIUM Wood, cotton, wool, aluminum
DATES mid-20th century
DIMENSIONS est.: 55 x 6 x 63 in. (139.7 x 15.2 x 160 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Gallery, 5th Floor
CREDIT LINE Gift of Sam Hilu
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CAPTION Yoruba. Egungun Dance Costume, mid-20th century. Wood, cotton, wool, 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
IMAGE overall, 1998.125_PS9.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2016
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CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION 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.
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Egungun Dance Costume