The gelede festivals put on by men pay respects to the spiritual powers of women, particularly elder women, who are honorably known as "our mothers."
Their 'powers' are viewed as equal to those of gods (orisa), spirits (oro), or ancestors (osi), and can be channeled into positive and negative results for the community.
Helmet crest mask performances are entertaining and enlightening, combining sculpture, costume, music and dance. By holding these masquerades, social and spiritual commentary are addressed to the community in positive ways.
This particular gelede mask shows an interesting arrangement: a Christian cross is flanked on all sides by kneeling birds. Avian forms are typically a symbol of Osanyin - the deity of herbal medicine, or sometimes the "bird of the house," known as 'eye ile,'which is connected to divination and healing. 11.25"H x 11"D x 9.25"W. In very fine condition, overall, but missing one 'arm' of the crucifix. This was lost long ago and shows re-patination through use. Several small chips of more recent origin exist towards the back and sides of the helmet. Pigmentation is organic yellow (plant derived) and white (chalk, eggshells or clay). Carved from Ricinodendron africanum.
Early 20th century.
Provenance: Ex-Denver Art Museum, since the 1970's. Please note: Mask is not mounted.