The Costume Connection
Exhibiting works of art made up of one or more components, like costume and adornment, is difficult--especially when the costumes are as elaborate as those here.  A description of each component accompanied by the actual picture of the entire costume is helpful if the viewer is to understand what s/he is seeing.  Each costume shown here has its origins in a different culture, tradition, and ethnic background. The combination of elements that make them up range from bird plumes to goat wool. All have in common their functionality.  Each carries a cultural story about the celebration of traditions and spiritual events.  What bridges these three different worlds is the use of costume and adornment to enhance or transform human beings in order to tell that story.
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Nigeria, Ijebu Yoruba. Egungun costume. Multiple layers of cloth, medallions, and glass beaded veil. Photograph by M.T. Drewal. 1986.
(Picture source:Drewal, Pemberton, and Abiodun, p. 24).

The Egungun costume is the traditional costume for an Ijebu Yoruba Egungun Festival -- held not just to honor their ancestors but to receive any blessing that ancestors have to offer. It is the audience that judges the dancer's performance by the way he manipulates the many layers of cloth and glass beaded veil. The many colors, patterns, and fabrics making up the costume add to the aesthetic of the dance performance.

New Guinea Highlands (Wahgi). Komblo's Kulka Clan. Traditional Pig Festival Dancers in Costume. Glass beaded shirts and wooden headdresses with feathers.  Photograph by Michael O'Hanlon. 1979.
(Picture source:O'Hanlon, 1993, pl.6)

The Komblo's Kulka Clan dancers use this traditional costume during the Pig Festival dances which are performed every twenty years. This festival tries to reiterate clan unity and ward off ghosts. It is through the dances that the performance deters enemies increases fertility, and reduces aggression. The climax of the pig festival brings certain death to the pigs that have been bred to increase their number for this special day in the Wahgi culture.   Vividly painted faces, headdresses with feathers, and bright beaded and cloth skirts are used during the dance performance to overwhelm spectators with beauty.

Northwest Coast. Kwakiutl. Chief in traditional potlatch costume of a chilkat blanket, presenting a Copper.  Goats wool with form line design. Photograph by Eberhard Otto 1977.
(Picture Source: Brodzky, Daneswich & Johnson, p.82)

This traditional costume is worn during a ceremony known as a potlach. The traditional attire worn to a potlatch consists of such valuable heirloom garments  as those made of chilkat blankets and emblems like the copper.   Such traditional costume and adornment indicates great  authority in the Kwakiutl community. 

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