Tribe of the Week: The Yoruba People

October 12, 2017 By
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We recently added some new information to our page on The Yoruba people and wanted to share some of our findings here on the blog! Be sure to check out the page for more information, as we sell more art made by The Yoruba people than any other tribe.

The Yoruba are the largest tribe in Africa with nearly 40 million people in their cultural group. They mostly live in South-West Nigeria, but also have communities in Benin, Togo and Sierra Leone and other areas of West Africa. The Yoruba group is so large that the area in which live is referred to as “Yorubaland.”

As we mentioned before, we have a plethora of Yoruba masks and figures in our collection, so it is no surprise the Yoruba people come from a long lineage of artists and carvers. Oftentimes, Yoruba artists spend many years studying ancient techniques that have been passed down in their family for generations. Some of their art can even be attributed to a specific Yoruba carver by name! To know of the particular artist behind an African art piece is astounding and rare in the world of African art.

One tradition of the Yoruba where their artistic abilities shine are their seasonal masquerades or “Egungun.” Masquerades are a very big deal for the Yoruba; some last for days and a large amount of time and work go into constructing the costumes, masks, performances and food. The Yoruba often celebrate their ancestors during these ceremonies and believe masquerades have spiritual powers and magic.

As you can see in the photos below, cloth and textiles play a big role in their masquerade costumes. They believe that adding lappets and amulets–decorated with tassels, sequins and patchwork–to the costume will give the figure more power and more beauty. Over the years, more and more lappets and amulets are added to the garment to represent the honor they feel for their ancestors.

The Yoruba people hold so much reverence for their masquerade costumes and masks that they believe ordinary beings should not touch them, as they are “totem-sacred.”

Feel free to flip through the images above of these amazing and intricate costumes and masks. And be sure to read more about the Yoruba culture here.

Image Sources: one / two / three / four /five / six / seven / eight / nine

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