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HOME : African & Tribal Art : African Masks : Yoruba Wooden Epa Mask
Yoruba Wooden Epa Mask - PH.0267
Origin: Southwestern Nigeria
Circa: 19 th Century AD to 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 46" (116.8cm) high x 13.5" (34.3cm) wide
Collection: African Art
Style: Yoruba
Medium: Wood

Location: United States
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The Yoruba are a Central Nigerian tribal group, originally descended from a Hausa migration from the northeast in about 900 AD. A small kingdom – Ile Ife – was founded by Oduduwa, followed by great sociopolitical expansion into Southwest Nigeria, Benin, and Togo. The Yoruba have an exceptionally rich and diverse mythology, history and religious context, all of which are directly linked to their artistic output.

Among the Yoruba peoples of Southern Nigeria is the Epa cult. Centered around the worship of Epa, a wood-carving deity, ceremonies and religious festivities honoring this god feature large, impressive helmet masks such as this one. Complex in form and monumental in scale, these masks are among the most distinctive of all Yoruba mask types. At the end of the annual rites dedicated to Epa, the masks are brought out and worn by young male dancers who demonstrate their athleticism by balancing such a heavy, cumbersome burden upon their heads. When they are not worn, they are housed in special shrines where they are offered prayers and libations. Such masks typically memorialize important family ancestors who are revered for the fine moral character or highlight other important figures within the community. - (PH.0267)


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