One: Egúngún tells the life story of a twentieth-century Yorùbá masquerade dance costume (egúngún), from its origins in Ògbómọ̀ṣọ́, Nigeria, to its current home in Brooklyn. Composed of over three hundred textiles from Africa, Europe, and Asia, this egúngún swirls into motion during festivals honoring departed ancestors. Centuries old, egúngún is still practiced in Nigeria, the Republic of Benin, and in the Yorùbá diaspora.
While previously exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum, this egúngún has not been the focus of extensive research until now. In summer 2018, its origins were traced back to its makers, the Lekewọgbẹ family. Though no longer ritually empowered according to its community of origin, it remains a compelling symbol of belief. By highlighting a single egúngún, this exhibition emphasizes the global connections of African masquerades while challenging the misconception that cultural practices are static.
Also on view are four related West African textiles and garments; interviews with Nigerian scholars and contemporary artists; and photographs and films of egúngún festivals. A text contributed by the Brooklyn Yorùbá community brings diasporic perspective. One: Egúngún is the first Brooklyn Museum exhibition to include wall texts in English and Yorùbá.
At the request of the Lekewọgbẹ family—the makers of this egúngún—this exhibition honors their family name and masquerade heritage. We thank and acknowledge them.