African masquerades are fascinating to me for a number of reasons. First reason being that they are probably the most beautiful costumes I’ve ever come across, I mean when you talk about creativity, they are definitely up there on the top of my list. Secondly, the creativity is based on culture and spirituality and that also makes them even more interesting, there is a story behind every single one. Thirdly, they scare me, but that’s based on stories I was told as a child from my grandparents, and I do not want to be tormented by an evil spirit.

From brightly coloured distressed fabrics and patterns (I’m a sucker for print), to intricate details such as fringing, beadwork and avant-guarde like headpieces, there are too many elements one can get inspiration from. Aside from the visual aspect of these masquerades, the meaning behind each one provides a deeper understanding and appreciation for them. Get inspired!

african costume 2
Akata Dance Masqueraders, Ogoja, Nigeria, 2004, Ilfochrome, printed 2011, edition 3/5, 30″ x 30″ It is the ancestor’s responsibility to compel the living to uphold the ethical standards of past generations.
african costume
Akata Dance Masquerade, Cross River, Nigeria, 2004, Ilfochrome, 30 x 30 inches, Through costume, drumming and dance, these masqueraders become possessed with the spirits of the ancestors.
sierra leone
Ringo (Big Deer) Masquerade Kroo Bay, Sierra Leone 2008. The cowhead, the horsehead, the devil are frequent participants.
ritual costumes
Gelede Masquerade, Agonli Village, Benin, 2006, Ilfochrome, 30 x 30 inches. The ancestors when invoked, spiritually clean the community and through exaggerated miming demonstrate both ethical and amoral activities with hopes of encouraging behavior deemed suitable to the spirit and traditions of the ancestors.
zamibia 2007
Zambia, 2007. The masquerade plays a number of important roles in the community: spiritually, it marks both festive and solemn occasions; politically, it provides an opportunity to reaffirm or negate loyalty to a chief or politician; and culturally it teaches reverence and tradition to the young.
ancient costume
Creek Town Youth Group, Ekpo Masquerade, Calabar, Nigeria, 2005 Ilfochrome, printed 2008, 1 of 5, 30 x 30 inches
haloween costume ideas
Gama Masquerade, Fada Village, Burkina Faso, 2006, Ilfochrome, 30 x 30 inches Masking traditions are of great importance to the Edo groups of Nigeria, who trace their beginnings to the kingdom of Benin, their neighbors to the south.
old world costume
Yaie Masquerade, Bansie Village, Burkina Faso, 2006, Ilfochrome, 30 x 30 inches
native african costume
Ekong Ikon Ukom, Calabar, Nigeria, 2005, Ilfochrome, 50 x 50 inches “Bands of spirits” are shown honor and reverence during their visitation.
native costume 2
Atam Masquerader, Alok Village, Nigeria, 2004, Ilfochrome, 30 x 30 inches. African masking generally invokes deities, nature spirits and ancestors. When a person wears the mask, that person takes on the entity that the mask represents.
Chief Oadume Uwabidie of Issele-Uku, Nigeria, 1994




  1. Just love it. Simply amazing! I used to see some of these dancers in the streets on festival day, growing up. It is so rich! Such a rich culture indeed, and each costume is worn only for specific event. Thanks for posting


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s