Although the Gambia is 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, in the concrete and corrugated iron enclave of a compound in the capital city of Banjul.
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 long-term project (sneak preview, below).
Walking around the narrow back streets of Bormla (also known as Cospicua), whilst photographing an old door, of the many derelict houses in the area, I was approached by two very young girls – around 6 and 9 years old, respectively. ‘You like this door?’ the older of the two said. ‘Come, I will show you more…’
‘this is where my grandfather lived when he was a boy’, my unintended chaperone told me… read/ see more on Doors and Facades