Ògún Helmet Mask Artist: James Ajala (Nigerian, born ca. 1930)

early to mid-20th century

African Art

On view, 1st floor, African Art

Epa-style masks such as this balance the grotesque in the helmet mask below with beautiful figures of power above. Here, the man holding the cutlass in his right hand and a huge shield adorned with four heads in his left represents Ògún, the Yoruba god of war and iron. The Èkìti and Igbomina in northeastern Yorubaland employ Epa masks–which are called by different, locally used names–in public rituals that celebrate social roles and enhance the growth, power, and general well-being of their communities. This particular mask is in the Epa style, but whereas masks used in Epa performances are brightly colored, this one is blackened with sacrificial encrustation of soot and dog's or pig's blood. It may have appeared in the annual yam harvest festival.


Wood, fiber, hide, nails, and encrustation


44 × 19 × 25 in. (111.76 × 48.26 × 63.5 cm)

Credit Line

Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection

Accession Number



20th century


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.



Charles B. Benenson Collection, Greenwich, Conn; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.
  • Frederick John Lamp, Amanda Maples, and Laura M. Smalligan, Accumulating Histories: African Art from the Charles B. Benenson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2012), 195, ill
  • Frederick John Lamp, "Hot Space, Cool Space: The Reinstallation of the African Art Collection in the Louis Kahn Building at Yale University," African Arts 40 (Summer 2007), 40–41, fig. 8
  • "Acquisitions, July 1, 2005–June 30, 2006," in "Photography at Yale," special issue, Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2006), 222
  • Frederick John Lamp, "Charles Benenson and His Legacy of African Art to Yale," in "Recent Acquisitions 2001–2003," special issue, Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2004), 33, ill
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

ceremonial objects, masks (costume)

Technical metadata and APIs


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