Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, National Museum of African Art

Henry John Drewal and Margaret Thompson Drewal Collection

Collection ID:
Drewal, Henry John
Drewal, Margaret Thompson
Physical Description:
10,000 Slides
10,617 Copy slides
Both Henry John Drewal and Margaret Drewal traveled to Nigeria, Ghana and Togo (West Africa) for extended periods from 1967-1986. During their trips to Nigeria they conducted research into the ritual performance, masking traditions, and traditional sacred rites of the Yoruba people as well as Mami Wata devotes of Togo, Ghana, and Nigeria. They are the co-authors of Gelede: Art and Female Power among the Yoruba (1993).Both Henry John Drewal and Margaret Drewal traveled to Nigeria, Ghana and Togo (West Africa) for extended periods from 1967-1986. During their trips to Nigeria they conducted research into the ritual performance, masking traditions, and traditional sacred rites of the Yoruba people as well as Mami Wata devotes of Togo, Ghana, and Nigeria. They are the co-authors of
Gelede: Art and Female Power among the Yoruba
(1993). Photographs taken by Henry John and Margaret Thompson Drewal during the 1970s and 1980s of Yoruba and Ewe art and culture.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The Drewal collection is a photographic documentation of several trips made to the West African countries of Ghana, Nigeria, and Togo to conduct field research. This collection, which consists of over 10,000 color slides (35mm), represents a major portion of the photographs taken by the Drewals during their visits to West Africa from 1967-1986 to conduct field work.
There are several subjects present in this collection. The most prominent being the Egúngún and Gelede rituals and festivals of the Yoruba people of Nigeria. Other subjects found in the collection are Ifá initiation, Òrìsà and Mami Wata festivals, Òrìsà shrines, sacred arts, beading techniques, and traditional and modern architecture. There is a large selection of images specifically of shrines and festivals for Òrìsà such as Sango, Ògún, Agemo, Eyinle and others. Details of implements like the ose Sango, opa Osanyin, and opa Osun can also be seen in the collection.
The Drewals also photographed and documented Yoruba sacred art (i.e. shrine objects; masks) in a number of international museums in Africa, Europe and the United States. Their collection contains images of Yoruba art in the British Museum, London; Nigeria National Museum, Lagos; National Museum of African Art, Washington, D.C.; Everton Museum, New York; and Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago. For a complete listing of slides depicting museum collections see pages 28-33. These images are restricted and can not be reproduced without permission of the copyright holder.

Organization of the Finding Aid
Organization of the Finding Aid
  • Drewal, Margaret Thompson. "Symbols of Possession: A Study of Movement and Regalia in an Anago-Yoruba Ceremony."
    Dance Research Journal
    7, no. 2 (1975).
  • Drewal, Margaret Thompson and Henry John Drewal. "Gelede: Dance of the Western Yoruba,"
    African Arts
    8, no. 2 (Winter 1975).
  • Drewal, Henry John. "Efe: Voiced Power and Pagenatry."
    African Arts
    7, no. 1 (Autumn 1973).
  • Drewal, Margaret Thompson and Henry John Drewal. "More Powerful than Each Other: An Egbado Classification of Egungun."
    African Arts
    11, no. 3 (April 1978).
  • Drewal, Margaret Thompson. "Projections from the Top in Yoruba Art."
    African Arts
    11, no. 1 (October 1977).
  • Drewal, Henry John. "Gelede Masquerade: Imagery and Motif."
    African Arts
    7, no. 4 (Summer 1974).
  • Drewal, Henry John. "Pageantry and Power in Yoruba Costuming." Justine M. Cordwell and Ronald M. Schwarz, ed.
    The Fabrics of Culture
    . Hauge: Mouton, 1979.
  • Drewal, Margaret Thompson. "Art and Trance Among Yoruba Sango Devotees."
    African Arts
    20, no. 1 (November 1986).
  • Drewal, Henry John. "Flaming Crowns, Cooling Waters: Masquerades of the Ijebu Yoruba"
    African Arts
    20, no. 1 (November 1986).
  • Drewal, Henry John. "Mermaids, Mirrors, and Snake Charmers: Igbo Mami Wata Shrines"
    African Arts
    21, no. 2 (February 1988).
  • Drewal, Henry John. "Performing the Other: Mami Wata Worship in Africa"
    32, no. 2 (Summer 1988).
  • Drewal, Henry John. "Beauty and Being: Aesthetics and Ontology in Yoruba Body Art." Arnold Rubin, ed.
    Marks of Civilization: Artistic Transformation of the Human Body
    . Los Angeles, CA, 1988.
  • Drewal, Henry John, John Pemberton III, Rowland Abiodun.
    Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought
    . NY: Center for African Art in Association with H.N. Abrams, 1989.
  • Homberger, Lorenz ed.
    Yoruba Art and Aesthetics
    . Zurich: Museum Rietberg; New York: Center for African Art, 1991.
  • Drewal, Margaret Thompson.
    Yoruba Ritual: Performers, Play, Agency
    . Bloomington and Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press, 1992.
  • Drewal, Henry John and Margaret Thompson Drewal.
    Gelede: Art and Female Power among the Yoruba
    . Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.
  • Abiodun, Rowland, Henry J. Drewal, and John Pemberton III, editors.
    The Yoruba Artist: New Theoretical Perspectives on African Arts
    . Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994.
  • Drewal, Henry John. "Yoruba Beadwork Beauty Brightness."
    12, no. 1 (September 1995).
This finding aid was organized according to the inherent value of the Drewal collection to art historians, ethnographers, anthropologists, and cultural historians. It has been kept simple but made as detailed as possible while still providing the researcher with references to the images and other valuable research information. The finding aid has been organized into three principal sections:
A. Bibliography of Drewal publications with image numbers; B. Primary keyword subjects: Field images; C. Primary keyword subjects: Art images; and D. Restricted images: B/W copy slides and non-Drewal color slides
A. Bibliography of Drewal publications: The first section contains a bibliography of primary Drewal publications and lists the image numbers for reproductions that appear in either black-and-white or color. These publications are listed chronologically with a corresponding list of image numbers. For the researcher's convenience, all images from the Drewal collection that have been published are listed in a separate column beside the publication in which the picture appears. Due to space restrictions, only the last five digits of the accession numbers are listed in the Image # column.
**Please note that some of the color slides in the collection have been reproduced as black-and-white images in several Drewal publications. A separate column in the bibliographic section indicates whether the image was reproduced in black-and-white or color in the publication. The Elisofon Archives does not currently possess any of the Drewal's black-and-white negatives. For additional information on these images, please contact Drs. Henry John Drewal and Margaret Thompson Drewal.
Publication Title Image # Gelede: Art and Female Power among the Yoruba, 1993
To further assist researchers, two additional columns have been created to indicate if the image is published in color or black/white.
Example: Publication Title Image # Color Gelede: Art and Female Power among the Yoruba, 1993 • 00000 
B & C. Primary keyword: Field and Art images The second section contains a complete list of images available in the collection, subdivided by field and art images. Field images refer to cultural or natural landscapes shot in Africa and Art images refer to images of objects in museums (or photographed in the field as an object by itself). These images have been categorized by primary keywords (i.e. artisan; leadership; masquerade) and subdivided into subcategories or type within these general keyword subjects (i.e. carvers; chiefs; Egungun).
Primary Keyword Subcategory Image # Architecture • Modern • 00000
D. Restricted images: The final section lists restricted images in the collection: b/w copy slides from publications and color slides not produced by the Drewals. These images are for study purposes only and not for reproduction.

Arrangement note
Arrangement note
The slides were sent to the Elisofon Archives in several batches. They were arranged according to the Drewals' own system of classification and field notes (see below). This arrangement is roughly by subject and further subdivided by subcategory or type. Slides of museum objects are grouped with field images of similar subject matter. For instance, museum object related to Sango worship can be found with the field images of Sango devotees and shrines.
The Drewals donated copies of their field notes (Red and Blue Books) which correspond to most of the slides found in the collection. The Red and Blue books are arranged in reverse chronological order starting with Blue Book 1977-78.1. Reference numbers to these books appear on the upper left hand corner of the slide (e.g. 78.34.6; 28-11). The majority of the field notes give the date and place where the photos were taken as well as a brief descriptive of the subject of the image related to the note. In some cases, the Òrìsà of a particular town was recorded in addition to how many Òrìsà are worshipped. The Drewals attended several private ceremonies and there are some descriptions of their experiences, however, in most cases not in extensive detail.
There is an additional notebook containing more field notes for years prior to 1975. This notebook has information about the images of museum objects and is a collection of Xeroxed copies of notes on index cards. There are no dates on the copies, but there are reference numbers as with the Red and Blue Books.
Images indexed by negative number.

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Art historian Henry John Drewal received his BA from Hamilton College and two Masters' degrees and a PhD from Columbia University (1973). In between college and graduate school, Drewal served in the Peace Corps, where he taught French and English, organized arts camps in Nigeria, and apprenticed himself to a Yoruba sculptor.
He taught at Cleveland State University (Chair of the Art Department), and was a Visiting Professor at UC-Santa Barbara and SUNY-Purchase. Since 1991 he has been the Evjue-Bascom Professor of Art History and Afro-American Studies at UW-Madison. He has published several books, edited volumes, exhibition catalogues, and many articles and produced a number of films documenting African and African Diaspora arts, and lectured widely on these topics. He has received several NEH and NEA grants, three Fulbright Research Awards (Brazil, Benin, Morocco), a Metropolitan Museum of Art Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.
Dr. Margaret Thompson Drewal is an ethnographer, performance theorist, and dance historian. She has conducted extensive research on Yoruba and Afro-Brazilian ritual dance with a special interest in the poetics and politics of performance discourse. She is the author of
Performers, Play, and Agency: Yoruba Ritual Process
(1989). She has also authored numerous articles that have appeared in such journals as
TDR: A Journal of Performance Studies, African Arts
, and
The Journal Ritual Studies
. She is also a trained dancer and choreographer. At present, Dr. Drewal is the Chair of the Department of Performance Studies at North Western University.
There are also video productions by Henry John Drewal and Margaret Thompson Drewal available in the Warren M. Robbins Library. The videos available are "Ẹfẹ/Gẹlẹdẹ Ceremonies among the Western Yoruba," by Henry John Drewal; "Yoruba Performance," by Henry John Drewal; and "Yoruba Ritual: A Companion Video," by Margaret Thompson Drewal.

LaTricia January
Custodial History note
Donated by Henry John and Margaret Thompson Drewal, 1992.
Processing Information
When the Drewal catalog records were transferred from the old FoxPro database into Horizon/SIRIS (MARC), the images were given a new set of "D" numbers (i.e. D00001; D01368).

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access note
Use of original records requires an appointment. Contact Archives staff for more details.
Conditions Governing Use note
Permission to reproduce images from the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives must be obtained in advance. Copyright held by John and Margaret Drewal. To publish images from this collection, permission must be given by Henry and Margaret Drewal. Contact Archives staff for further information. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Preferred Citation
Henry and Margaret Drewal Photographs, EEPA 1992-028, Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Related Materials
Additional photographs by Henry John Drewal held at the EEPA are located within the collection: Henry John Drewal Collection, EEPA 2010-010.

More Information
Cultural Information and Background
Cultural Information and Background
The information found here goes slightly beyond the notes of the Red/Blue Books and index card that accompany the images. Because the Drewal Collection primarily centers on the Yoruba and Mami Wata spiritual traditions and material cultures, the focus of images are of specific implements of the deities and priests, such as staffs, pots, stools, thrones, statues, and bells. Also included in the collection are images of divination, sacrifice, and other important rituals, festivals and ceremonies. What is given here is pertinent background information on the cosmology of the Yoruba and Mami Wata spiritual traditions as it relates to the iconographical focus of the slides.
In Yoruba cosmology, there is a supreme being commonly referred to as Ọlọdumare. Ọlọdumare is essentially understood as being genderless or androgynous. There are no shrines or spiritual implements dedicated to Ọlọdumare. The Yoruba believe that Ọlọdumare is too vast and its power too strong to be channeled into one building or space. Everything is a part of or expresses an aspect of Ọlọdumare. Through the appeasement of the Òrìsà Ọlọdumare is served. The Òrìsà are the emissaries of Ọlọdumare sent to the world to assist their devotees in every day life. There are hundreds of Òrìsà within the Yoruba pantheon. Deities such as Ọbatala, Ifá, Èshù, Ọshún, Shango, Ọsanyin, Yemọja and Oya are worshipped throughout Yorubaland; there are also deities that are specific to particular locations and are not as popular as the aforementioned eight.
Implements of the priests are classified as sacred art. These spiritual tools are not only instruments of the priests, but ultimately, they are tools for the Òrìsà. It is important to understand that the shrines are not the Òrìsà. This very prominent misconception has plagued traditional practitioners both in and out of Yorubaland for centuries. The emphasis of reverence is placed on the spirit associated with the materials used to construct a shrine or ceremonial item and not the item itself. The shrine and other sacred tools serve as vortices to channel the ashe or power of the Òrìsà into the physical world.
Ifá is a term that has been used to refer to the Yoruba traditional spiritual system. However, Ifá also refers to the Òrìsà of divination, Ọrunmila, as well as the system of divination used by the priests of Ọrunmila. Ifá's role as a diviner is so important in Yoruba cosmology that he is referred to as Ẹlẹri ipin, ibikéjì Ọlọdumare (witness to all destinies, second only to Ọlọdumare). The Drewals were allowed to follow the process of three initiations and other sacred rituals performed by priests. Certain rituals cannot be witnessed by non-initiates; however the Drewals were able to photograph many of the sacred rites of the initiation process. The roles of the Ifá priest vary. Divining is a very important role of the Ifá priest, and the tools used to divine are also sacred. There is a section of the collection dedicated to images of divination tools and the Ifá shrine.
Èshù is another one of the most important deities within Yoruba cosmology. Èshù is the keeper of ashe and the inspector of all sacrifices. His image is carved into the top of the Ifá divination tray (ọpọn Ifá) because he is a witness to all actions, thoughts, and events. According to Yoruba cosmology, he is an unbiased observer who will convey only the truth of any subject. Both Ifá and Èshù assist devotees in overcoming unsavory circumstances and bad luck, according to the Yoruba. There are many roads (aspects) of Èshù, each performing a specific duty in a devotee's life. Shigidi is one of the more powerful aspects of Èshù. One can see the noticeable differences between the Shigidi and the yangi (laterite or sculpted clay used to create an Èshù shrine).
The implements that are found on traditional Òrìsà shrines are based on Yoruba mythology. For instance, the odo Shango, ritual mortar, is found on almost all shrines dedicated to this particular Òrìsà. The legend goes that he used an inverted mortar to kill a leopard that was terrorizing the people of Enpe. The odo Shango is sometimes used to support the container that holds the "thunderstones" (lightning struck stones) of Shango's shrine. The inverted mortar is also used as a stool for priests or initiates to sit. Shango's priests usually keep their hair braided, even if the priest is male. Equestrian figures are utilized in both Shango and Oya sacred art. Oya is the only female deity in the Yoruba pantheon that has ever been depicted riding a horse. Yoruba mythology states that Oya is a warrior goddess who accompanies her husband, Shango into battle and fights by his side. Together the husband and wife team is associated with thunderstorms. Oya is mythically related to the winds that precede the thunder and lightning that are both said to be associated with Shango.
There are several types of staffs or dance wands seen in the Drewal collection. In the case of dance wands, they are often times utilized during spirit possession. In some instances, the shrine of the Òrìsà is only the staff of that particular deity. Such is the case with the ọpa Osun, a deity associated with Ifá and his devotees and the ọpa Òrìsà Oko, the deity of agriculture.
The Ogboni society (also known as Osugbo) possesses a mixture of spiritual and governmental power within the traditional Yoruba community. It was the foundation of order in traditional Yoruba society. The focus of worship and veneration amongst Ogboni members is Onilẹh, the Owner of the land or Earth. Sometimes one may hear the term Onileh, Owner of the house, instead. Both pronunciations can be used and carry significant meaning in either case. However, the consensus of scholarly research associates Ogboni with the Earth. In that case the term Onilẹh is more suitable.
Egúngún and Gelede festivals are of significant importance amongst the Yoruba. The Egúngún society is dedicated to the veneration and appeasement of honorable ancestors. This can take place in private or public. Families celebrate their deceased relatives' lives and accomplishments privately through sacrifice, prayer and celebration. In a public arena ancestors from the community are given recognition. The Yoruba have long believed that community solidarity and welfare begins with the family. In honoring one's personal ancestors as well as benevolent community ancestors, the family receives the blessings of those that reside in the spiritual realm—those who have become ara ọrun, or the people of heaven. Because the Yoruba believe in reincarnation, it is thought that the ancestors will one day return to the material world in a future lifetime. If proper rituals and prayers are performed, the spirits returning will have a better chance of being assets to society by hopefully making positive contributions to the elevation of the Yoruba people.
Gelede is always a public event. The time of year which the festival will take place is dependent on the locality in which the festival is being held. Gelede focuses mainly on the feminine and the role of women in society. Female deities such as Yemọja, Olókun, and Ilẹh are associated with Gelede. Another aspect of major importance to Gelede is the inclusion of Ìyánla, the Great Mother, which is a reference to Onilè. This reference is but one facet that connects Gelede to the Ogboni society. It is also during the Gelede festival that Awọn Ìyá Wa, Our Mothers or the Mothers, are petitioned and appeased so that they may not interfere with the positive efforts of the community.
Both the Egúngún and Gelede festivals help to ensure prosperity, abundance, and fertility of the people. It is through these festivals that indecent conduct is addressed in hopes of exorcising the root of such behavior. It is believed that bringing any disgraceful and inhumane acts to the forefront encourages individuals to act responsibly in all matters.
The final subject presented in the Drewal Collection is of the Mami Wata traditions in West Africa. Representations of Mami Wata often include foreign images, usually of Indian gods, to describe the attributes of Mami Wata as a deity. The term Mami Wata refers to a water spirit or a collective of water spirits. The names associated with the original African water spirit(s) have long been forgotten in some regions of West Africa where Mami Wata is worshipped. However, in other areas, the term Mami Wata is interchangeable with the indigenous name used to identify the water spirit(s). There are variations to the worship of Mami Wata throughout West Africa, yet similarities prevail. Togo is most popularly associated with the Mami Wata tradition. Most of the slides featuring Mami Wata devotees in the Drewal Collection were taken in Togo.

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Ewe (African people) Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Yoruba (African people) Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Color slides Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Igbo (African people) Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Togo Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Africa Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Nigeria Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ghana Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sierra Leone Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, National Museum of African Art
National Museum of African Art
P.O. Box 37012
MRC 708
Washington, DC 20013-7012