late 19th-late 20th Century


Oyo, Nigeria


Cloth, wood, cowrie shells, fiber, skin, encrustations
21 13/16 in. (55.4 cm)

Object Number



The Egungun cult was adopted in Oyo from Nupe invaders sometime in the 16th century and became politically powerful through its control by the Oyo Mesi or Council of Chiefs. The cult venerates ancestors and gave rise to a wide array of masquerades that impersonate ancestral spirits. The most important of these are elaborate paneled cloth structures, which may or may not include a carved mask component on top. Here, the cloth cylinder hangs from a circular frame and is composed of indigo-dyed, hand-spun cotton strip weave inset with imported velvet trade cloth. In front, a net panel studded with cowrie shells acts as a concealing screen for the masquerader's face. The small carved head is painted with laundry blue, a popular pigment with Yoruba carvers, and the frame is hung with small bundles of powerful medicines or relics.

Credit Line

Ex coll. William S. Arnett


Art of Nigeria from the William S. Arnett Collection, Michael C. Carlos Museum, October 15, 1994 - January 2, 1995|
MCCM Permanent Collection Gallery, March 29, 2013 - December 1, 2014
Henry John Drewal, African Artistry: Technique and Aesthetics in Yoruba Sculpture (Atlanta: The High Museum of Art, 1980), 78, number 136.


© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White, 2013.
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On View



“Egungun,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed July 11, 2020,

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