I was killing time on All Saints Road - I found this book of images I had once seen long ago that Kanye West sent me years ago for a mood board. As they came in digital format mixed in with other things, I never knew who created them, but they stuck with me.
Buy Maske by Phyllis Galembo, I just did.
"In 1985, Galembo travelled to Nigeria to photograph priests and priestesses with their traditional costumes and ceremonial objects. ‘I was fascinated by the idea of ritual clothes that had spiritual, transforming power. I followed the story to Haiti, where the priests and priestesses of voodoo are believed to transform via their clothing into magical beings. Once I discovered the Jacmel Kanaval [Haiti’s pre-Lenten festival], I felt I had found my metier in the masquerade.’
Masquerading has a long history in Africa. Long before the Europeans arrived the tradition criss-crossed the continent, giving birth to endless variations. Galembo, now a professor of fine art at Albany University in New York, has spent more than 20 years capturing the masquerade’s myriad forms, following festivals and carnivals across Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso, and chronicling their re-emergence in places such as Haiti as a result of the African diaspora.
As alien as her images seem, Galembo - who describes her interest as ‘both artistic and anthropological’ - says that they are only a more strident embodiment of rituals that feature heavily in the West. They are celebrations to give thanks for spring, fertility and prosperity; to banish the threatening forces of the winter; to poke fun at authority figures - they are their Hallowe’en, their harvest festival, their Notting Hill, Rio and Venice carnivals.” - The Telegraph