Sitting on a golden cloth, this spectacular headdress, hat and strands of beads resemble lost treasure, found again and spread out for your perusal and pleasure. In the center are three men who look back at you, in startled surprise. Their arms interlocked, they brace each other and together with their torsos, create a balanced geometric structure—a symbol of mutual strength. A giant godly head, symbolizing a powerful Mother figure, acts as physical and spiritual support.
This centerpiece, a headcrest mask known as “Gelede”, is carved from a single hardwood block by the Yoruba People of Nigeria. The three men are costumed dancers, holding each other’s arms in the style of traditional Yoruba folk dance, whereby upper and lower body movements are synchronized. To the right of the mask lies the Lega hat, made by the People of the same name from the Congolese Rainforest. Within Lega culture, this hat identifies its wearer with high achievement and strong personal character. It is hand-woven from raffia and decorated with cowry shells and elephant tail hair. Draped below and serving as a foundation for the tableau is a stunning “Zari” cloth. From the Bhadohi Region of India, it is hand-embroidered in pure silk.
REFERENCES: Biebuyck, Daniel P. 1982. “Lega Dress as Cultural Artifact.” Journal of African Arts. Vol. 15, No. 3.