Maske | Phyllis Galembo
The clothes we wear invariably telegraph information about our identity, our place in society and the stories we wish to convey about ourselves. The fantastically colorful costumes specific to African and Caribbean rituals and celebrations go several steps further, transforming ordinary people into mythic figures and magicians, tricksters and gods, and symbolizing the roles their wearers play in the ancient dramas that form the cornerstones of their cultural heritage. Phyllis Galembo began photographing the characters and costumes of African masquerade in Nigeria in 1985, and since then she has continued developing her theme throughout Africa and the Caribbean. This volume collects 108 thrilling carnival photographs from Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Zambia and Haiti. In magnificent color shots, Galembo's subjects pose in striped bodysuits that cover the entire body, including the face; or outfits made entirely of bunched greenery; or a lacquered wooden mask topped with a headdress featuring full-body models of other characters; or an oversize misshapen animal head and plywood wings. The carnival characters, rooted in African religion and spirituality, are presented in chapters organized by tribal or carnival tradition and are accompanied by Galembo's personal commentary, shedding light on the characters and costumes portrayed, and on the events in which they play a pivotal role. Maske is a serious contribution to ethnographic study, a photo-essay about fashion and an assembly of superb images.