African Masquerades: Incredible Photos Of Tribal Masks 1942-1972

Minganji masqueraders, near Gungu, Congo (Democratic Republic),

Minganji masqueraders, near Gungu, Congo (Democratic Republic),

 

American photographer Eliot Elisofon (1911-1973) spent decades travelling around Africa. A pioneer in color photography – he worked as a color consultant on Hollywood movies (African Queen,  Bell, Book and Candle, The Greatest Story Ever Told, Moulin Rouge) – Elisofon changed Western perceptions of ‘the Dark Continent’.

These pictures are from his collection of African masquerades (1942-1972) curated at the National Museum of African Art. 

 

 

Player wearing the nne mgbo mask at the Okumkpa performance, Mgbom village, Afikpo Village-Group, Nigeria. 1950s

Player wearing the nne mgbo mask at the Okumkpa performance, Mgbom village, Afikpo Village-Group, Nigeria. 1950s

 

Texas University has a long profile of the photographer:

For generations foreign photographers had misrepresented Africa as a mysterious or uncivilized continent full of exotic animals, backward peoples and strange landscapes.The limitations and/or prejudices of many “objective” documentaryphotographers and writers had discolored the entire portrait of a vibrant land and its myriad cultures. Elisofon’s social consciousness and inherent humanness would not tolerate it. He held that “Africa is the fulcrum of world power” and he sought to have America “wake up to that fact.” Eliot became the first Western photographer to recognize the incredible richness and diversity of the nations of Africa–establishing a tradition since followed by such photographers as Constance Stuart Larrabee and Peter Beard–and fought to show what he saw to the world.

 

Pwoom Itok mask dancer. Muentshi, Congo (Democratic Republic)

Pwoom Itok mask dancer. Muentshi, Congo (Democratic Republic)

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Okumkpa masquerade play, Amuro village, Afikpo Village-Group, Nigeria.

Okumkpa masquerade play, Amuro village, Afikpo Village-Group, Nigeria.

Masked dancer during a Gelede performance, Meko, Nigeria

Masked dancer during a Gelede performance, Meko, Nigeria

Mende masqueraders from the Liberian National Dance Troupe

Mende masqueraders from the Liberian National Dance Troupe

Igbo mask dancers performing during the Onwa Asaa festival, Ugwuoba village, Nigeria.

Igbo mask dancers performing during the Onwa Asaa festival, Ugwuoba village, Nigeria.

Igbo mask dancers performing during the Onwa Asaa festival, Ugwuoba village, Nigeria.

Igbo mask dancers performing during the Onwa Asaa festival, Ugwuoba village, Nigeria.

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Ighogho masquerade, Benin City, Nigeria

Ighogho masquerade, Benin City, Nigeria

Kple Kple and Kpan Pre masks dancers during a Goli performance, Kondeyaokro village, Ivory Coast

Kple Kple and Kpan Pre masks dancers during a Goli performance, Kondeyaokro village, Ivory Coast

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Sirige, Kanaga and buffalo masqueraders during the Dama ceremony, Sanga, Mali

Sirige, Kanaga and buffalo masqueraders during the Dama ceremony, Sanga, Mali

Sirige, Kanaga and stilt masqueraders during the Dama ceremony, Sanga, Mali.

Sirige, Kanaga and stilt masqueraders during the Dama ceremony, Sanga, Mali.

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Sirige masqueraders during the Dama ceremony, Sanga region, Mali

Sirige masqueraders during the Dama ceremony, Sanga region, Mali

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Masked performer with zantegeba (baboon) mask, Bamako (national district), Mali

Masked performer with zantegeba (baboon) mask, Bamako (national district), Mali

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Masked performers and balaphon players at Tiebleke dance, Bin village, Mali

Masked performers and balaphon players at Tiebleke dance, Bin village, Mali

Masked performer wearing vertical Chi wara headdress, Bougouni village, Mali

Masked performer wearing vertical Chi wara headdress, Bougouni village, Mali

Masked performer wearing male horizontal Chi wara headdress, referred to as n'gonzon koun, Bamako (national district), Mali.

Masked performer wearing male horizontal Chi wara headdress, referred to as n’gonzon koun, Bamako (national district), Mali.

Bamako (national district), Mali.

Bamako (national district), Mali.

Nufori acrobat-mask performs the final rituals of a Senufo funeral, near Korhogo, Ivory Coast

Nufori acrobat-mask performs the final rituals of a Senufo funeral, near Korhogo, Ivory Coast

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