In our everyday lives the symbol of a mask can acquire different meanings. A mask can be a game, it can be fun and quickly acquire both a frivolous or a more in-depth meaning depending upon the circumstances. The figure of the mask in itself can have both a positive or a negative connotation depending on the situation. We say that people are “wearing a mask”, here they may be deciding to show only one side of themselves to the world.
Women often wear jewellery to feel beautiful and strong; just like a mask, jewellery to an extent can acquire a similar role.
The queen’s mask of DOLA’s logo that can be found on several pieces of the new Ayaba Collection; and it digs a bit deeper as it wants to also speak about it’s Nigerian heritage. It is here that we want to share with you some knowledge on the story behind African masks.
African masks serve an important role in rituals or ceremonies with varied purposes like ensuring a good harvest, addressing tribal needs in time of peace or war. Some masks represent the spirits of deceased ancestors; other symbolize totem animals and creatures important to a certain family or group.
The wearer of the mask is often believed to be able to communicate to the being symbolized by it, or to be possessed by who or what the masks represents. In most traditional African cultures, the person who wears a ritual mask conceptually loses his or her human life and turns into the spirt represented by the mask itself. This transformation of the mask wearer into a spirit usually relies on other practices, such as a specific type of music and dance, or ritual costumes that contribute to the shedding of the mask-wearer’s human identity.
The mask wearer becomes a sort of medium that allows for a dialogue between the community and the spirit. This is a message that touches DOLA’s philosophy which seeks to encourage a better dialogue and comprehension of each person’s interior world. For fashion to genuinely become a medium of expression of oneself and freedom. It is through this symbolism that DOLA’s Nigerian heritage acquires a contemporary key.
Though we want to grasp this occasion to also tell you a bit more about some examples of Yorùbá Nigerian masks throughout history.
Gelede is an annual festival honouring “our mothers” (awon iya wa) not so much for their motherhood but as female elders. The celebration is recognizing the power and spiritual capacity women have in society. It takes place when the dry season ends (March–May) among the Yorùbá people of southwest Nigeria and neighboring southeast Benin.
This is a Yorùbá Egungun mask used during the Egungun festival. It is made from local materials. The mask is worn during a dance performance, as the dancer performs strips of the cloth “fan” out. The dancer’s body is never revealed.
Here we have concentrated on some masks typical of the Yorùbá culture as this represents DOLA’s origins, the brand takes inspiration from this culture by naming it’s pieces in Yorùbá language.
Yorùbá is one of the three largest ethnic groups of Nigeria, concentrated in the southwestern part of that country. The Yorùbá’s constitute around 45 million people in Africa. The vast majority of the Yorùbá population is today within the country of Nigeria, where they make up 15.5% of the country’s population. Most Yorùbá people speak the Yorùbá language, which is the Niger-Congo language with the largest number of native speakers.
Stay tuned to find out more about jewellery and the Nigerian Yorùbá culture !