The Gelede Mask A mask could have different meanings, it could be a form of disguise, or something worn over the face to hide ones identity, but there’s more to a mask. They vary in appearances, function, and also mostly used in ceremonies that have both strong and social significance. In some societies they are used for curing sicknesses, used to ward off harmful spirits, and also some secret societies use this for ritual purposes.

In some African cultures during the burial ceremony, the mask is very vital, used in covering the face of the deceased the purpose being to represent the features of the deceased, and also to honor them while they establish a relationship through the mask with the spirit world, and also the mask has therapeutic uses in some cultures it is used to drive away diseases, and demons from an entire village and tribe. GELEDE translated in English means HEADDRESS”, In addition, Gelede celebrates the importance of “Womanhood”, and also truly is a cult that always holds an annual festival every year between March and May, which represents the beginning of a new agricultural season. It takes place in the market place because the market place in the Yoruba tribe was seen as a place where the mortals and spirits gather, most importantly where women sell or trade their food stuff, the market place represents a woman’s power and presence, the market place was more like their second home even more important to them than their husbands.

The Gelede mask gave reason for a festival performance to appease witches who are also known as “Mothers”, and also honor creative, and dangerous powers of elderly women, female ancestors, and goddesses all known affectionately as “Our Mothers”, in the words of authors (Drewal, Henry, John Pemberton III, and Rowland Abiodun) the power of the “Mothers” which strengthens social existence, but it may also be known for its destructive form such as the witchcraft that destroys life by bringing about impotency, barrenness, and diseases, and famine to the land but it doesn’t normally use this powers against the Yoruba people but instead encourages rain and fertile soil, women, and appeases the ancestral gods, in the words of an author (Robert A.

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Ibold “Mask From Around The World”). This is the only festival governed by majority of women wearing different cultural outfits, beating of drums, dancing, and wearing the Gelede masks which helps create peace with the living and the dead, balancing out the power of the witches throughout the society, this festival is very entertaining, and is seen as the festival for all mothers. The Gelede mask originated from the south of Nigeria from a tribe known as Yoruba which is one of the major ethnic groups, and language in the country, the tribe has been in existence since ancient times, and they are also popular for their considerable powers and values.

The Yoruba people divided through a series of wars for which the slave trade was responsible, and they shared a myth which also linked and united all Yorubas in the honor of the gods through the maintenance of both religious and history traditions, in the words of (Drewal, Henry John, and Margaret Thompson). The Gelede mask plays an important role in the Yoruba tribe, who would have known such a strange looking mask would have so many strong qualities and importance in a society; all Gelede Masks represent faces of women , and also the mask consists of two parts, a lower mask which represents a woman’s face because on the mask itself you can see traditional marks (“Marks given when a person suddenly falls ill this seems to cure the illness”) of the woman who owned the mask this happens because back in the old days they didn’t have cameras so all they could do was draw the actual face of the woman that owned the mask on the mask itself.

According to the Metropolitan Museum of Arts” The Gelede Mask represents a woman’s composure expressing the qualities of calmness, patience, and also that motherly love desired in women”, and also on the mask is an upper structure right on top of the mask itself which consists of two birds, one on each side and also a snake which is coiled around the front (Birds signify the dangerous super natural powers, and the messenger of the mothers while the snake symbolizes a strong presence, and a positive feminine quality of calmness) that appears right on top of the mask representing something very powerful, it also tells us that the mask was previously owned by a very powerful woman who belonged to a spiritual shrine.

The design of the mask is intended to appease the mothers by displaying their inner powers so that everyone can see, but still please them promote social harmony, good health, and also make sure the community is on the good side of the gods. In addition, any mask that has the symbol of the snake and bird represents something very essential, and also the snake signifies caution, and alertness with the saying “The snake sleeps but continues to see. ” (Fagg, William, and Rowland Abiodun) In the Yoruba tribe witches are called mothers because they are respected, for example, you don’t see people just calling each other witches for no reason, and also they own the world they are custodians of the world just like real life Mothers are significant figures, mentors, and very protective who play vital roles in the life’s of their children or anybody.

This exhibit summarizes the true meaning, importance, and joy of motherhood, and how it’s celebrated differently in another part of the world, promoting good human relations, love, fertility of lands, people, and we can tell, and see from the pictures, festivities that majority of women partake in this ceremony, which reinforces the power of the spirit of women while the mask depicts, and represents their faces. In conclusion, for all we know the Gelede mask in the Yoruba tribe signifies their own special way of celebrating mother’s day like they do in America, the Gelede mask will continue to remain in ancient history forever sold and seen in museums, and is still celebrated till this day. Works Cited Creary, Melissa, Fall 1997 http://www. english. emory. edu/Bahri/Yoruba. html

Drewal, Henry, John Pemberton III and Rowland Abiodun. Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought. New York: The Center for African Art and Harry N. Abrams, Inc, 1989. Fagg, William, and John Pemberton III. Yoruba: Sculpture of West Africa. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982. http://www2. lib. virginia. edu/artsandmedia/artmuseum/africanart/Exhibition. html Lawal, Babatunde. “The Gelede Spectacle” Art, Gender, and Harmony in African Culture. http://www. randafricanart. com/Yoruba_gelede_mask_snake_and_birds. html http://www. anymask. com/historyofmask. html Vogel, Susan M. ed. For spirits and kings, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1981.


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