The Oral Heritage of Gelede
(supported by Nigeria and Togo)
100 years, the Yoruba-nago, Fon and Mahi communities have
practiced their rites and dances after the harvest, as well as
during droughts and epidemics. The ritual, featuring carved masks,
is sung in Yoruba, recalling the history and myths of the
Yoruba-nago people. The
community is divided into groups which could be led by a man or a
woman - the only mask society where women can play that role.
Singers accompanied by a drum perform in this night-time ceremony,
followed by dancers accompanied by an orchestra. Satirical masks mock
certain types of behaviour.
mythical origin of the Gelede is
said to reflect the transformation
from a matriarchal society into a patriarchal society. It
aims to pacify the anger of the mythical
mothers and the spirits of the ancestors. Animal figures
are often used -- the snake, symbol of power, or the bird,
messenger of the "mothers."
development and tourism jeopardize the future of the Gelede.
plan: Proposals include the creation of community centres for
performances and training of craftspeople and students. An
inventory of the best Gelede groups, masks and craftspeople is
being compiled. Audio-visual
material is needed. Heritage laws are being revised. National and
international festivals are planned and craftwork will be sold.