Public Lectures

Critical Encounters: Egúngún Masquerade Ensembles


Bolaji Campbell, Henry J. Drewal, Thierry Gentis, Kate Irvin, Alagba Babatunde Akinsegun



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2 hr. 7 min. 32 sec.

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Discussion held October 16th, 2016 at 2:00pm in the Chace Center, RISD Museum, Providence, RI.

Egúngún masquerade regalia is constructed from disparate layers that are appliqued, patched, and sewn into panels or lappets. Some of the oldest cloth—often locally handwoven—is found at the core of each ensemble, while the outer layers present more contemporary textiles drawn from the global market. Bold and vibrant, these assemblages on view in the exhibition, Whirling Return of the Ancestors: Egúngún Masquerade Ensembles of the Yorùbá, are multidimensional feasts for the senses. During this lively exchange, curators, art historians, and artists unfolded the material lives of these ensembles. Drawn from the collection of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, and presented in an art and design context, intended to be animated by movement, but presented in stillness, made and remade, these ensembles allow us to consider the conventions and parameters of academic disciplines and museum practices as well as the interrelationships between ritual, trade, and processes of making.

Speakers included: Bolaji Campbell, co-curator, professor and department head in RISD’s History of Art and Visual Culture; Henry J. Drewal, co-curator, professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Department of Afro-American Studies; Thierry Gentis, Curator/NAGPRA Coordinator, Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology; Kate Irvin, curator of costume and textiles at the RISD Museum; and artist Alagba Babatunde Akinsegun.

Critical Encounters: Egúngún Masquerade Ensembles