Egungun Dance Costume

Yoruba (Nigerian)
Early-mid 20th century
Cotton, silk, velvet, metal
Work : 5 ft. 6 in. x 35 in. x 8 in. (1.7 m x 88.9 cm x 20.32 cm)
Credit Line
Hope College Collection
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Egungun is a type of Yoruba masquerade in which the spirits of deceased ancestors return to the world of the living through the forms of elaborately costumed dancers.  Egungun masquerades were traditionally held at festivals, funerals and other important community events. The returned spirits were thought to bring good luck and protection to the community, and were also invoked to settle disputes and reinforce social bonds. This Egungun costume is made from strips of brightly colored indigenous and imported cloth that would have covered the dancer’s head and body. As the dancer whirled through space, the costume’s textile strips would have fanned out to spread blessings on the audience. Although Egungun ceremonies became less common over the course of the 20th century as more Yoruba converted to Christianity and Islam, the custom survived and is still practiced in parts of Nigeria today.

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