Efe ('Joker' Headdress)


By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


The Efe ceremony is held annually in conjunction with the Gelede festival across western Yorubaland including the villages and cities Ketu, Egbado, Ohori, Anago and Awori. Before the Gelede festival takes place in the afternoon, the Efe ceremony is held the night before with the aim of appeasing the 'Great Mother' (Iyanla), to pray for generosity but also to satirise unappealing social behaviours. Unlike Gelede headdresses, which are generally homogenous throughout Yorubaland, Efe masks vary in style and form considerably across the various Yoruba regions and sub-ethnic groups; these include Oro Efe (meaning 'voice of Efe'), Ate Efe (found in Egado regions), Apasa (also called Agasa, the male mask (Akogi) found in Ohori) and Iyanla ('Great Mother' female mask (Abogi) considered the most sacred Gelede mask) to name a few.

Similar in function to the Oro Efe headdresses of Ketu region, Ate Efe (also called Akata) headdresses are found in Egbado and Awori regions. They serve as the central singing masquerades of the Efe ceremony. They are also used as the preceding Ajakuena singing male attendant headdress in the Egbado village, Ilaro.

Distinguishing Features

    • Made of wood
    • Consists of human head carved centrally within a wide brim / circular tray (called ate efe)
    • Tray is usually perforated or painted with triangles
    • Central head wears peaked cap carved in relief
    • Holes around edge of circular brim (to hold hanging cowrie shells, mirror segments or glass beads)

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