Machete Boy, traditional masquerades, The Gambia, West Africa

MACHETE BOY GAMBIA copy
Masquerades – The Gambia, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio

 

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

 

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‘Masquerades’ West Africa

New photo project: Masquerades, The (#ebolafree) Gambia, West Africa

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©Jason Florio

 

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.

Also, the juxtaposition between the urban environment and these ancient traditions is fascinating – just like ‘The Hunting’, pictured above (©Jason Florio), in the concrete and corrugated iron enclave of the capital city of Banjul.

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Jason Florio and ‘The Hunting’ – © HJF – screen grab, taken from film footage.

 

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).

Thanks, as always, for stopping by.

The Florios – Helen & Jason

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HJF hanging with the ‘Fairy’ masquerade, Banjul, The Gambia © JF