Masquerades from each cultural tradition have many functions:

  • Represent and honor family lineage
  • Entertain
  • Teach and instruct during Rites of Passage and Initiation
  • Represent a specific spirit or god
  • Convey and express social and political commentary and satire
  • Dispel negative energy in the community
  • Dispense blessings to the community
  • Appease spiritual energy to ensure blessings of harvest

The Masquerade: Telling the Story

The appreciation of a culture begins with understanding. From the moment that Europeans witnessed Masquerades, they wrote about their experiences with limited understanding and perceived tribal culture as primitive. Much of what is known is still a mystery with such knowledge retained by the secret societies who create the masks and perform their rituals.

For the general community, to see a Masquerade in action, one may mistake its significance during a festival for performance art; however, the moment a masquerade appears, a story is being told and blessings are being invoked. Nuances of each masquerade can convey social satire of issues occurring in the community or communicate social mores or invoke the ancestral lineage of families within the community. In most societies, only men can wear masquerade and become a vessel for the Egungun to bless and communicate with the living. These stories as they influence the creation of masquerades in this series, will be shared and perhaps in the sharing, we all will grow in understanding.