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Egúngún headdress

Accession Number
1985/1.183

Title
Egúngún headdress

Artist(s)
Workshop of Adugbologe

Object Creation Date
circa 1950

Medium & Support
wood, mirrors, pigment, gourd, beads and metal

Dimensions
30 in x 26 in x 19 in (76.2 cm x 66.04 cm x 48.26 cm);30 in x 26 in x 19 in (76.2 cm x 66.04 cm x 48.26 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of the Edward H. Eliscu Family

Label copy
March 28, 2009
Egúngún—meaning “power concealed”—is a masquerade performed to honor the spirits of important Yoruba ancestors. This marvelous headdress is worn with a voluminous costume made from layers of brightly colored cloth strips that billow and flare with the whirling rotations of the dancer: the spinning dance and the flaring attire communicated that the dancer had left the human realm and was manifesting the realm of the spirit. Distinguished by its large ears, it is called erin, or elephant, a metaphor for both the grandeur of its costume and the wealth of its owner.
This headdress is a veritable theater of symbols that allude to its history and might. Birds evoke “our mothers”—female elders and ancestors who possess both creative and destructive powers—while lions leap in likely reference to British heraldry. Medicine packs shaped like beaded lozenges and triangles, a Christian cross, and Qur’anic amulets testify to the intersection of religions in Yoruba culture. The beard, protective bird claws, and a double-headed drum used to praise and fortify hunters suggest this was a hunter’s Egúngún.

Subject matter
Egúngún – meaning “power concealed” – is a masquerade performed to honor the sprits of important Yoruba ancestors. This marvelous headdress is worn with a voluminous costume made from layers of brightly colored cloth strips that billow and flare with the whirling rotations of the dancer, the spirit manifest. Distinguished by its large ears, it is called erin, or elephant, named for both the grandeur of its costume and the wealth of its owner.

Physical Description
A massive wood-carved headdress with stylized face (showing classic Yoruba features) of bulging eyes with defined upper lids, long, straight, triangular nose, symmetrical scarification patterns consisting of three horizontal lines on each cheek, and a short beard from ear to ear just underneath the lower lip. Two large “ears” protrude on either side of head and act as “scaffolding” for numerous attachments of symbolic content: birds and lions predominate, but also visible are amulets, wooden claws and beads, crosses, and an insignia shield of some kind. The ears terminate in two oblong mirrors with lions leaping off of each. Layers of pigment are visible, giving the impression that it has been repainted over time.

Primary Object Classification
Costume and Costume Accessories

Primary Object Type
headdress

Additional Object Classification(s)
Sculpture

Collection Area
African

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
ancestors
ceremonial costume
masquerades
spirits (beings)

18 Related Resources

Lesson Plan: Egungun Mask
(Part of: Lesson Plans)
Making Art in a Cold Climate
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)
Artful Gesture
(Part of: Screen Arts and Cultures, Fall 2009 Project)
African Christianities
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)
Kindergarten Tour: Shape Up
(Part of: Visit UMMA: Curricular Tour Descriptions for Teachers)
First Grade Tour: Art on the Move
(Part of: Visit UMMA: Curricular Tour Descriptions for Teachers)
African Collection Images
(Part of: African Collection Information)
Kindergarten: Shape Up! Colors and Shapes
(Part of: Docent Curricular Tours)
Third Grade Tour: Motion and Movement
(Part of: Docent Curricular Tours)
Symbolism Tour
(Part of: Docent Thematic Tours)
Part I: The Hand and the Head
(Part of: Unrecorded: Africa Reimagined)
Docent Materials for Unrecorded: Imagining Artist Identities in Africa
(Part of: Docent Information From Training Continuing Education Sessions)
Grammar and Ekphrasis Writing Portfolio
(Part of: Writing + Art Enrichment Activities)
White Group Images
(Part of: Ann Arbor Public Schools English Language Arts Camp)
Docent Resources: Watershed
(Part of: Docent Information From Training Continuing Education Sessions)

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