Yoruba Pythons with Warthog Parable Gelede Mask, Nigeria #

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  • Yoruba Pythons with Warthog Parable Gelede Mask, Nigeria #
  • Carved from a single tree trunk. The lower part represents a very calm and serene Woman's face in a simple and static posture. The upper part is on the contrary very lively and where all the creativity of the artist is expressed. Animal figures are often represented, as here, two large Snakes devouring a captured Warthog. 
  • According to Yoruba Mythology, the Warthog was the most beautiful creature of the all animals at the time of Creation. Its head was decorated with Gems. However, the Gods were disgusted by the Warthog’s habits, his rooting around in the mud, and so on. They replaced the Gems with warts and the Gems were entrusted to the Python instead.
  • The Python, which symbolizes the Rainbow, safeguarded the Gems by burying them at the point where the Rainbow meets the Earth. The Warthog threatened to kill the Python, but still he did not return the Gems. Incensed, the Gods sent Messenger Deities (the Eshu) in the form of Hunters to protect the Python.
  • This Gelede is a clear reference to this Story/ Parable.
  • Today, the Yoruba People form one of the largest Ethnic Groups in West Africa. They number around 30 million and are predominant in Nigeria where they comprise 21 per cent of the population. Most Yoruba speak the Yoruba language. Today, 60 per cent are Christians and another 30 per cent are Muslims. But many, especially in rural areas, still practice old Yoruba Traditions such as those based around Ifa.
    Christie’s New York, ‘Important Tribal Art and Antiquities from the Collection of William A. McCarthy-Cooper’, May 19, 1992.
    Fagg, W. & Pemberton, J. III., Yoruba: Sculpture of West Africa, Collins, 1982.
    Rowland, A., Drewal, H. J. & Pemberton, J. III., Yoruba: Art and Aesthetics, Museum Rietberg, Zurich, 1991.
  • Measurements: 40x27x20cm
  • Condition: Good
  • This type of Mask might have been worn at Funeral Ceremonies and expresses humor and irony with a subliminal laugh that is alien to Western Christian Funerals.
  • Gelede Headdresses (not Masks as these sit ON the head and not across the face) are one of the few among the Yoruba People to celebrate Female Forces.
  • The Gelede is performed by the Yoruba-Nago Community spread over Benin, Nigeria and Togo. For more than a Century, this Ceremony has been performed to pay tribute to the Primordial Mother Iyà Nlà, and to the role Women play in the process of Social Organization and Development of Yoruba society.
  • Gelede is also a Festival of Masks performed in veneration of the Society's Powerful Older Women, the Iyami.
  • Egbado Yoruba Communities perform Gelede annually, at which time they formally recognize the Powers of the Iyami, and solicit their Benevolence to ensure the Prosperity of the Community.