Photographs © Tim Hamill
This Yoruba head shows no evidence of age or use and was probably made to be sold. Its form is similar to an Egungun.
The word Egungun refers to masking associated with honored male
lineage ancestors. While each mask has a personal name, it does not usually
refer to a specific ancestor. Rather, Egungun masks embody the "collective
force of the ancestors. All of the Egungun in a community appear
annually during a joyful festival that celebrates the distinguished dead.
During the festival, the ancestors bless the living, promote physical and
spiritual health, settle disputes, enforce tradition and morality, and cleanse
the community of witchcraft.
--from African Shapes of the Sacred: Yoruba Religious Art by Carol Ann Lorenz, Senior Curator, Longyear Museum of Anthropology, Colgate University.