Saso L'Oju Egun -Behind the Mask
- Mode : Showcase
- Period : 04/18/2018 ~ 02/28/2019
- Space : Big Medium / Canopy Gallery Austin Texas
- Host : www.artwithakirash.com
- Sponsor : Mid American art Alliance, NEA, Fusebox Festival, Cultural Art Division of COA, Big Medium
The journey of this project began in a residency that I was doing at the Sacatar Instituto in Bahia, Brazil in 2015 .While I was researching the traditional textile of the region, I was invited to attend a local Egungun Festival. This incredible experience has traveled in my dreams ever since.
The EGUNGUN Masquerade festival is celebrated by adherents of the traditional religion in Southwest Nigeria, who believe that their ancestors reincarnate and pay them regular visits to bless them. The yearly festival is marked with pomp and pageantry. Egungun, as the ancestors are called, come decked in colorful costume, accompanied by loud drumbeats and song and speak in guttural voices to give the impression that they are not ordinary beings. People who are childless, sick or possessed of demons are prayed for. Farmers take their harvests to the king’s palace to be blessed by the Egungun before eating or selling them.
Many of the Bahia people of Brazil can trace their ancestry to the Yoruba of Nigeria. The tradition of the Egungun traveled with them on slave ships across the sea. Separated by an ocean and time, Bahians evolved their own unique take on the festival.
When I came upon the Egungun in Bahia, my head spun with questions:
What is the significance of the masquerade here in Brazil? What is the purpose of the festival in this culture?
From where did those costumes and masks come? Who designed them and with what influence?
What preparations do the performers undergo before the festival?
Do the patterns incorporated into the costumes have any relationship to the tattoos and body art of today?
How does Egungun relate to the costume traditions of other cultures, including those more familiar in North America, Halloween and Dia de Los Muertos?
How are these traditions rooted in our universal search for meaning and connection?
This project involves the creation of 10 original masquerade costumes from traditional materials, incorporating symbols and patterns from cultures around the world including, but not limited to, Ghana (Adinkran), Nigeria (Uli, Arewa), South Africa (Ndebele), Cameroon (Bamuleke), Australia (Aboriginal), New Zealand (Mauri), and New Mexico (Pueblo).
The Egungun is an institution that has developed over time. Civilization has not eroded it from the culture of the land. Its appeal transcends time.