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The Epa headdress of the Yoruba Epa Festival

The Epa headdress is used in the Yoruba Epa festival celebrating the important social roles of a town and its people. The headdress is worn at the climax of the week-long festival whose purpose is to reinforce the structure of the community. In the Epa festival, men perform the ceremony with large headdresses carved from wood, in honor of Epa, the male deity who was a wood carver. His cult was limited to the Northern Yoruba people. The headdress is not just a work of art, but also a representation of the very practical nature of the Yoruba spiritual system. "African art often appears in ritual contexts that deal with the vital moral and spiritual concerns of the human condition" (African Art: Aesthetics and Meaning).

African aesthetics is based on ethical and religious values, and for this reason the principal subject of the headdress are human figures. The Epa headdress is an example of African art in a ritual context that deals with the vital moral and spiritual concerns of the human condition (African Art: Aesthetics and Meaning). The headdress is an excellent example of the fusion of form and function that characterizes African art. The Epa mask or headdress remembers "the great one, the great ones of the family who are not dead" (Drewal 202). African mask artists, called carvers or sculptors, are concerned with making headdresses and masks visually interesting, showing various aspects as the dancer moves before the audience.

Carved from soft and light wooded-tree trunks called a e'ruku, the relief impressions of the headdress are meant to be ritual objects. The three-dimensional design is richly varied. Although the headdress is based on the world of reality, it is not representational. It is unimportant for the figures to look like particular individuals. When a headdress is worn, the wearer's face is usually disguised by cloth. The purpose of the Epa headdress is to provide a temporary home for a spirit, and for the w...

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The Epa headdress of the Yoruba Epa Festival. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 04:25, May 28, 2020, from