Monday, November 8, 2010

The Voodoo and the Juju

I love when I stumble upon a great link or some amazing photos on the net. Better still when they relate to my part of the world.

I have lived in West Africa for close to 15 years now, and apart from visits to the juju and voodoo markets in Ghana and Togo, where one can buy dried chameleons and other ex-living bits for spells and curses, I must say that I haven't been around or involved in many rituals.

Wandering through the arts centre in Accra, you come across various statues and implements that were presumably used for various traditional ceremonies, but we can only use our Western imaginations to surmise what the actual uses were.

To be invited into the secret world of the traditional as an outsider in West Africa is rare indeed. Many times foreigners are invited to watch or participate in events that are rigged up for the very purpose of impressing or intriguing the tourist. There is nothing intriguing in those.

Phyllis Galembo, a widely traveled photographer managed to gain the trust of her subjects across West Africa, and gained access to various ceremonies that have remained shrouded in mystery for centuries. As a result, she has produced a glimpse into a world I can not quite imagine - despite living here!

The photos are taken in Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Ghana and the collection is called West African Masquerade.

The photos are so worth sharing though:

"Created for festivities and ceremonies such as weddings and burials, initiations, chiefs' coronations, and holidays like Christmas and the New Year, the costumes can be worn to disguise anyone, from a grown man or woman to a child. The subjects range from adults to teenagers, but Galembo does not know the identity of the individual beneath each mask. This mystery lies at the heart of her interest in costuming and masking — acts that allow the wearer to become something else, to change gender, or species, or even into spirits."
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charlie said...

Great photos! I think I want a costume like those, it'd be really useful for avoiding the townsfolk!

Expat mum said...

Good grief - they make quite an impression. Why do they have the desire to be masked for things like weddings though?

IanH said...

It must be tough to be exposed to this as a Christian.

grahamghana said...

Great photos. I also have wondered through Ghana's herb (juju) market and came away with some fetish dolls. It's a shame that this rich heritage is fast disappearing through its demonization.

Wendy aka Quillfeather said...

What incredible photographs!

Thanks for sharing these, Holli.

The pale observer said...

Thanks for your comments!

Expat Mum - I don't think the bride or groom wear these outfits - it is the traditionalists who are invited as representatives from the spirit world who come to bless the occasion, that cover themselves...

Ian, at the risk of losing you as a valued reader, I have always believed that man created God in his own image - so no issues with being exposed to different beliefs for me.

Graham - I've been through that juju market many times. Ghanaians will tell u it's dangerous to bring home those dolls - that we are dabbling in things beyond our understanding...

deb said...

how absolutely fascinating. the colours and textures and complete difference from things so mainstream here are fascinating.

Miss Footloose said...

Loved your post and the great photos! I visited the juju market in Accra once (with Tr) and was fascinated by all the stuff for sale -- thunderstones, monkey skeletons, dried lizards, and God knows what else.

I remember being entranced studying all that stuff and with my imagination going wild, I turned around for some reason.

And saw a blue door with white letters that read:


The pale observer said...

In Ghana the ancient meets the modern all the time!

Kenya Safaris said...

Wow quite interesting photos some do look a bit scary.

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