‘The three boys turned up with a couple of rice sacks, a bunch of leafy branches, and what looked like a few scraps of bright red fabric. Within half an hour, they were transformed into Kankurangs, and fully in character – jiggling branches, menacingly clashing machetes together… ‘ Read more here
Now that we are back in The Gambia, we’ll be continuing with a photography project, based on the traditional masquerades of this region of West Africa. Despite the Gambia being a predominantly Muslim country, the animist fuelled masquerade ceremonies pre-date the arrival of Islam and are still tolerated and practiced around the country. Animism is an intriguing subject – the belief that animals and inanimate objects, such as trees, possess a soul, or a spiritual essence.
Whether it be a circumcision ceremony, celebrating a successful harvest, chasing away evil spirits, enforcing village rules, or simply for entertainment, each particular masquerade plays a central and significant role in many parts of West African society.
Most of the masquerades we’ve seen so far are based on animals. However, the traditions are being hauled into the 21st century, modernised by the use of synthetic fabrics and ornaments, such as Christmas tree baubles, adorning ‘new-style’ masquerades. However, more on those particular masquerades as we move on with the project (sneak preview, below).
We can hardly wait to get back down to West Africa, to carry on working on our personal projects – one of which is a photographic anthology of the traditional masquerades of The Gambia, West Africa.
As a photography producer, my work takes place behind-the-scenes of assignments, ensuring that everything runs as smoothly as possible for and during shoot days – often a lengthy process from pre through to post production. Perks of the job? Watching Jason Florio at work – his knack of putting all those he works with so quickly at ease is continually inspiring – you can see, from the end results, how well he does this. There is another aspect of our work together, which I enjoy in equal measure – watching the fascination, amusement and, often, bemusement on the faces of those people you don’t see in the final edit… those outside of the frame.
I do, however, think that I can safely add ‘security person’ to my résumé now – when on so many of our shoots, I regularly have to keep thirty curious kids from jumping in front, gesticulating madly (double thumbs up, gangsta style backwards peace sign, and smart military-like salutes, being the top three), of Jason’s lens!
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