Haffenreffer Museum and RISD Museum Joint Exhibition - "Whirling Return of the Ancestors"

July 7, 2016

Egungun costume, Yoruba, Nigeria. Museum purchase with funds from the Haffenreffer General Fund. Courtesy of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, Brown University

Co-curated by Bolaji Victor Campbell, Henry John Drewal, and Kate Irvin, Whirling Return of the Ancestors celebrates the rich and varied artistry of the ensembles worn in Egungun masquerades, performances that honor and celebrate the power and presence of ancestral spirits among Yoruba peoples of West Africa. In this installation, Egungun ensembles on loan from Brown University’s Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology will be presented within the context of the RISD Museum and alongside a magnificent, newly commissioned ensemble from Yoruba artisans in Benin. With cloth as their primary medium, Egungun ensembles are made of layers upon layers of disparate textiles that are appliqued, patched, and sewn into panels or lappets. At the ensemble’s core are some of the oldest, often locally hand-woven textiles, while the outer layers represent the most expensive, exotic, contemporary, and fashionable textiles from the global market. As assemblages, these vibrant ensembles are multi-dimensional feasts for the senses.

This exhibition is made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and is part of a collaboration between the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology at Brown University and the RISD Museum at the Rhode Island School of Design focusing on the new and evolving field of object-based teaching and research. 


For more information about the exhibition, visit the RISD Museum's page here.