The history of this work's creation reflects an ongoing artistic collaboration between two successive generations of related artists. It is one of a pair of headdresses that was begun about 1930 by the Ketu master Fagbite Asamu and completed by his son Falola Edun in June 1971. Fagbite is remembered for his innovative design of kinetic attachments for Gelede headdresses that could be manipulated by the masker during performance. The carving of the work's set of hinged attachments by Falola Edun was filmed in 1971 by Henry John Drewal. Gelede masks are repainted every time they are prepared for performance. The brilliant colors that once embellished this headdress have since been removed.
The lateral extensions take the form of two enormous snakes devouring antelopes. Depictions of animals consuming other animals occur frequently in Gelede compositions as metaphors for competing spiritual or social forces. Although many different animals are drawn upon in Gelede imagery, serpents are especially appealing for the fluid forms and plastic qualities they afford artists.
[Albert F. Gordon, Tribal Arts Gallery, New York, purchased Benin, early 1980s]; Gilbert and Roda Graham, New York, until 1992