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African masquerade rituals 

At the Boca Raton Museum of Art in Florida

Art lovers will be fascinated by this large scale, almost life-size photography series that explores spiritual realms with brilliant and mesmerizing colors.

For more than 30 years, photographer Phyllis Galembo has traveled the world, snapping participants in contemporary masquerade events that range from traditional religious ceremonies to secular celebrations.

In her vibrant images, Galembo exhibits a code adorned with political, artistic, theatrical, social and religious symbolism. It captures the cultural traditions focused on the masks of Nigeria, Benin, Ghana and Sierra Leone.

The masks and costumes in these photographs are made from a wide variety of surprising materials - leaves, grass, patterned fabrics, jute bags, strong crochet threads, colorful raffia, feathers, seashells and even lizard droppings. The modern world also finds its place here, with the use of plastic bags, cardboard and found objects.

The exhibition is running until May 31. Since travel is currently not recommended due to COVID-19, we have decided to present here a dozen of the portraits that are in this exceptional exhibition, revealing the meticulous detail and the creative imagination of the manufacture of masks.

Enjoy the visit!


Christiane Théberge

Affianwan («femme chat blanc»). Calibar South, Nigeria, (2005)

Represents spirit and transparency. The stunning headdress of this work is crocheted from one long flowing piece of fabric.

Two in a Fancy Dress and Rasta. Winneba, Ghana, (2010)

Illustrates the cross of African and European traditions (fancy dress).

Otoghe-Toghe. Aromgba Village, Nigeria, (2005)

Akata Dance Masqueraders. Ogoja, Nigeria, (2004)

Akata Dance Masquerade. Cross River, Nigeria (2004)

Aye Loja (The World is a Market Place that we Visit), Gelede Masquerade. Agonli Village, Benin, (2006)

Banana Leaf Masquerade, EkongIkon Ukom. Calabar, Nigeria (2005)

Agot Dance Group. Cross River, Etikpe Village, Nigeria, (2004)

Ekpeyong Edet Dance Group. Etikpe Village, Nigeria, (2005)

Egungun. Adandokpodji Village, Benin, (2006)

Ringo (Big Deer) Masquerade. Kroo Bay, Sierra Leone, (2008)

Awo-O-Dudu (A Spirit They Saw). Freetown, Sierra Leone, (2008) 

Reveals a ghost- like shape summoning ancestral spirits during the dry months or times of crisis, when spirits are called to bless the deceased and entire villages.




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