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
Abandoned, derelict, buildings have always held a fascination for me…
This particular one, a big house named ’Savoy’, is at the top of Savoy Hill, Gzira, Malta. It’s been derelict for the last three years, at least. Who knows how long prior to that. I’ve tried to find some information on it and the most I can come up with, thus far, is that it may have been a guest house.
Walking by the other day, Florio noticed that the front doors were open – they are usually padlocked with a big old rusty lock. Maybe there were workmen in there, at last, beginning a renovation project? ‘Hello, anybody home?’. No answer. What harm could it do, to take a quick peek? I’ve wanted to see inside this place since the first time we walked past it, three years ago.
Entering into the cool interior of what must have once been an impressive foyer, a beautifully ornate, wrought iron stairway, gracefully curves its way up to the first floor. Beneath our feet, and years of dust, beautiful old Maltese tiles, still very much intact in many places, line the floor. Could this have been a reception area? Several low-slung easy, art-deco style, armchairs, piled into one corner. And, judging by wooden bed frames, stacked up high, one on top of the other, in another room, and numerous old wardrobes (in one of the rooms, they were mysteriously lined up, barricade-like, against panoramic floor to ceiling windows, as if to obstruct the light or, perhaps, to keep something, or someone, out? Derelict buildings always arouse my vivid imagination!) suggests that it could very well have been a guest house or small hotel.
The marble stairs still looked solid enough, so we carefully made our way up the first curving flight, onto the first-floor landing. Treading with caution, hoping that the potholed, rubble-strewn floor would hold our weight, we edged our way through a labyrinth of hallways, poking our heads into room after room, sunlight pouring in from the many broken windows, lighting our way (I’m not sure I’d have been so brave to explore if there hadn’t been any natural light. LIke I said, vivid imagination). From the outside – despite its present state of dilapidation – one could imagine that the building was once a house that would have stood out, regally, amongst its neighbours. And, from what we could see, that would have been reflected in the interior, too.
I need to do some more digging, there must surely be photos somewhere, that depicts the house in it’s grander days, inside and out? Next time we pass by, and if we are lucky, and we find the front door is unlocked and open wide again, maybe we’ll venture up to the 2nd floor and onwards.