Phyllis Galembo & West African Masquerade



Foto Fix: Phyllis Galembo

Photographer Phyllis Galembo has made over twenty trips to places of masquerade in Africa and the Caribbean, to document their theatrical adornments in cultural and religious performances. Her impressive works depict the characters, costumes, and rituals of African practices and their diasporic manifestations. These are fantastic works of art, meticulously woven and crafted by hand, full of symbolism and vibrant beauty.

 Forsaking a studio, she shoots against the bare walls of houses and clearings in the woods. She lights each scene meticulously, setting up her equipment at dawn, then waiting for the masqueraders to arrive. These portraits build on Galembo’s work of the past twenty years photographing the rituals and religious cultures in Nigeria, Brazil, Cuba, Jamaica and Haiti, as well as the homegrown custom of Halloween in the United States.

“They have intentionally transformed themselves into something exotic, charged, even frightening. Here is combined a long deep legacy of dress-up for masquerade, for carnival, for possession by the Gods combined with personal creativity and ingenuity. These are not people in their ordinary dress — they are intentionally fantastic, shocking, wild.” – Via David Bryne’s online journal







Phyllis also has a beautiful book, which brings together an updated selection of more than 100 of her photographs, organized by country, and interspersed with personal accounts - Phyllis Galembo: Maske, available here.

‘I was fascinated by the idea of ritual clothes that had spiritual, transforming power. I followed the story to Haiti, where the priests and priestesses of voodoo are believed to transform via their clothing into magical beings. Once I discovered the Jacmel Kanaval [Haiti's pre-Lenten festival], I felt I had found my metier in the masquerade.’ 

- Phyllis Galembo -







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