Efe ('Joker' Headdress)

Iyanla (Great Mother)

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.

Iyanla masks appear immediately after the opening masquerades of the Efe ceremony.

Distinguishing Features

    • Made of wood
    • Head & projection length = 15 - 36 inches
    • Depicted as bearded woman (long, flat or slightly curved board-like extension below the chin)
    • Head attached to beard protection
    • Sometimes the lower face extends on the board
    • Shaven head (or hairline indicated)
    • Variety of hairstyles (or sometimes a prominent tuft of hair crowning the centre of the head)
    • Some feature a snake surrounding the head or a bird sat on top of the head
    • Deep-set bulging eyes
    • When depicted, ears are small and pointed, placed high on head
    • Surface is almost always white

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