The Fierce and the Fancy: Urban Masks from Sierra Leone
March 29, 2016 - November 20, 2016
Some masks are meant to be fierce. With their horns and animal heads, they evoke the rituals of hunting societies. Other masks, with their pleasing features and colorful cloth, are meant to be fancy. These awe-inspiring, unconventional masks dance in the streets of Freetown, a major port city and the capital of Sierra Leone. They belong to the members of local youth associations—the urban successors to social groups that originated among freed and resettled African captives in the 1800s—who wear them to entertain during weddings and public holidays.
The masks reveal this eclectic legacy, borrowing from various masking traditions and exhibiting a multitude of ethnic and religious influences. Whether fierce or fancy, these modern masks are like stylistic collages, celebrating the continuous reinvention of traditional art.