Replicating artistic forms

Good reference images provide a wealth of information, but there is always more than what can be seen.  Research goes hand in hand with picture study and even then, the subtle mysteries cannot be created. So my primary intent to is capture the magic of each masquerade like in this Bieni Masquerade representing the spirit "Do" from the Bwa people of Burkina Faso which are created at dawn and dismantled at dusk. 

Without the documentation of by Photo Journalists like Phyliss Galembo, who were allowed to witness and take photos, these types of masquerades would not be seen by the general public and I would not have had the opportunity to recreate in this series

Creating small scale replica is not as easy as it seems.

I was intrigued by the Masquerades created with palm frond raffia which are used in Nigerian Festivals.  Observing the flow of the construction, I quickly realized that fresh palms are used in these masquerades and most likely created on the same day worn.

For my masqueraders, the palm fronds are already dry and more difficult to fashion, so I experimented with another type of raffia and the result was not impressive.

Returning to the dry palm fronds, I was able to create a better semblance of how the raffia palm is fashioned onto the performer and this would be a similar process for other types of raffia costumes.

The last image is my best interpretation of a raffia palm masquerade which was difficult to construct small scale and is based upon a picture sent to me by a friend in Nigeria.  The palm fronds completely cover the entire body being tied onto the body including the face and is decorated by beautiful plumes of exotic feathers and flowers.  The underskirt is adire cloth. 

Constructing the Masquerades

Indigenous people create their masquerades using materials commonly found in the environment.  Plant fibers are often cultivated and prepared to be woven in very elaborate artistic costumes.

Besides cloth, natural fibers are used in the construction of my Masquerader Creations. Some of my favorites to use are sisal fibers, raffia, corn husks (often dyed), feathers, clay, cowrie shells, yarn, recycled paper and cardboard products. Using natural earth-based and recycled items adds a high vibration to their energy.

Shown is one of my Masqueraders using a combination of fibers. Some were woven and braided to add texture and depth to the design.  Creating motion is always important in styling the masqueraders, so you will seldom see the fibers trimmed too severely.