Ekine (Water Spirit Headdress)

Okooro (Human)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


Found amongst the Southern Yoruba of Ijebu, these headdresses are used for the masquerade cult known as Agbo, Magbo or Ekine (meaning 'dancing people' in Ijo), which pay homage to Olokun, goddess of the sea as well as a number of other water spirits. Influenced by Ijo style and believed to be used as a way for the Yoruba to adapt to living by the coast and coming to terms with the sea. The headdresses are used during masquerade celebrations to acknowledge the roles of water spirits in the wellbeing of Ijebu coastal communities.

During celebrations, three main headdresses (igodo - the bird, oni - the crocodile & agira - the antelope) are danced together. A fourth headdress, okooro (human headdress) is believed to act as an intermediary between the living and the water spirits. It heralds in the start of the Ekine festival after which the other masquerades appear.

"The town having been 'swept clean' by the jigbo masqueraders dressed in their brightly coloured cloth, three days later the heralds of the water spirits, okooro, appear. Dressed as elegant women in finely woven mats and with elaborate coiffures, okooro wear masks similar to the present one or others like those worn for Gelede. They parade through the streets greeting important members of the community and making offerings at shrines, accompanied by songs and rhythms beaten on a hollow tortoiseshell, before they arrive at the water’s edge to call the water spirits for the Agbo festival. The latter arrive in a boat."1

Distinguishing Features

    • Made of wood
    • Scarified female face
    • Refined, tall and elaborate hairstyle (dressed as two long vertical braided tufts)
    • Hatched upper eyelids
    • Domed hemispherical base

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