Permanent Collection Highlights :: Indianapolis Museum Of Art

Egungun masquerade costume

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Egungun masquerade costume, 20th century cotton, velvet, silk and wool, l: 64 in. Peggy S. Gilfoy Memorial Fund 1990.2 The most impressive of all African textiles, Egungun masquerade costumes (also referred to as "masks") are worn for seven days following a death and also during annual Egungun festivals. They are an important part of a complex ritual honoring ancestors. This costume is made of multiple layers of appliquéd and patched panels of cloth in bold colors attached to a wooden stick, which was balanced on the head of the masker. The section of striped netting covered the face of the masker but also allowed him to see. The panels were assembled from handmade cloth and imported machine-made pieces and trimmed with red sawtooth fabric. The legs and feet of the masker would also be covered, with a tightly fitting garment, when he performed. Egungun means "powers concealed," and only when the masker dances and whirls, lifting the multicolored panels of cloth, does the mask come to life.

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