African designs, £9.99
Height: 117.000 cm
Width: 40.000 cm
Africa, Oceania, Americas
Carved wooden mask of the Epa masquerade
Opin (Yoruba), probably late 19th century
Possibly carved by Bamgose of Osi-Ilorin
The Epa masquerade of the Yoruba peoples promotes the health and well-being of communities. Processions of masqueraders perform energetic dances which suggest higher powers of existence and, since they carry heavy masks, the strengthening of the body. The performers jump to the top of a mound, the result of which is an omen for the community. It is therefore important that the masquerader maintains his balance as he lands to avoid misfortune.
In Opin such masks were known as aguru and were used in the post-burial rites of titled men whose status was based on personal achievment rather than lineage. The image of the mounted warrior appears regularly on Epas masks. In addition to being an image of energy and authority, it embodies memories of at least three centuries of cavalry warfare in north-central Yoruba.
H.M. Cole (ed.), I am not myself: the art of ma, Los Angeles monograph series, no. 26 (Museum of Cultural History, University of California, 1985)
T. Phillips (ed.), Africa, the art of a continent (London, Royal Academy, 1995)