Efe ('Joker' Headdress)

Oro Efe (Voice of Efe)

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.

Oro Efe (also called Elefe meaning 'the Voice of Efe') headdresses of Ketu region serve as the central singing masquerades of the Efe ceremony.

Distinguishing Features

    • Made of wood
    • Composed of three parts:
        • 1) Suspended veil made of cloth
        • 2) Main head or face
            • Depicting a human face usually painted white
            • Pierced eyes and mouth painted dark against the white facial background
            • In some cases the face is bearded
        • 3) Superstructure
            • Complex openwork design
            • Crescent motif (moon or snake) hangs above brow of face
            • Leopard, mongoose or usually bird motifs feature at top of headdress (these animals depicted attacking a snake)
            • Some replace bird with airplane
            • Long vertical cutlasses in leather sheaths on sides of headdress (evoking the iron and war god Ogun)
            • Some depict multiple knives instead of cutlasses
            • Leather panel with interlace motif at back of headdress
            • Encircling band (depicting head wrapper)
            • Blue, yellow, green and red used to paint the superstructure

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