All round Nigerian artist, Zina Saro-Wiwa, photographs the Men of The Ogele, a traditional masquerade group in Ogoniland, South-South of Nigeria. This is the first time this group has been photographed, so it’s a milestone cultural event.
The Ogele Masquerade is formally called the Gbaaloo. And like most African masquerades, it’s a manifestation of the gods and ancestors, and represents good luck, among other things.
Ogele groups were formed by young men and these masquerades featured large, tall, very heavy masks made of wood that were often painted with car paint that are markedly distinct from the face masks of previous generations. These tiered masks tell stories that reflect the political and sometimes psychological situation of the time they were created. The mystical permeates Ogele as the young men have a practise of disappearing into the forests for up to three years to “dream” the design of the masquerades masks and the accompanying songs and dances.
Below are some of the images by Saro-Wiwa. We love how she has represented the Ogele men by de-masking them, showing humanity and vulnerability, much different from the way masquerades are usually portrayed.
Via Zina Saro-Wiwa