Drewal: Gelede Masquerade Imagery and Motif

I found Drewal’s description of the Gelede Masquerade a very interesting piece, from his article I understand that a core element of the belief is that of duality, or things done in pairs. “The Mothers” , the deities of the community are seen as the life blood; those that control the communities detriments and benefits. The positive ‘mother’ is seen as the preserver of moral laws and conduct who seeks to provide the community with healing and stability. Whilst the negative ‘mother’ is often depicted as an unpredictable and vengeful bird; often linked to matters of infertility and the death of children. It is this ancestral or deified women that control the fortunes and thus the outlook for the society, thus the community comes together in order to honour and placate “the mothers”.
There are three integral elements to the Gelede regalia; beginning with the ‘aworen’ or mask, the ‘oja’ (the head-wrap) and lastly the ‘iku’ the leg wraps. For men and women the costumes differ, as each is supposed to implicate a sexual element; the males costumes hopes to accentuate their girth and torso whilst the females are dressed in bodices and layers of cloth that hope to show off their hips and buttocks. These costumes are important as they are seen as epitomising the Yoruba visual imagery that which evaluates their life and thoughts.
There are four broad categories that are displayed in the masquerade that demonstrate four elements to Yoruba culture; Role Recognition, Satire, Hierarchy and Commemoration. I found the use of Satire interesting as Drewal’s description appeared to depict as scenery much used in Ancient Greek theatre, which used masks and outlandish costumes in order to satirize those in power and those who sought to take down the Greek government.
Overall I found this article very interesting and found many parallels between this cultures use of colour, mask and costume in other areas of the world and history.


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