The Gambia can boast of a rich and diverse music culture owing to a multi ethnic and cultural society. More…
What is a masquerade?
Masquerade or mask is an individual dressed with masks to resemble an animal or some scary being. Masquerades are made with any of or a combination of clothes, papers, leaves, bark of tress, grass, horns of animals, sacks with decorated materials etc. Masquerades are more traditional amongst some ethnic groups e.g mandinka and Jola and with others like the wollof, masquerades are connected with celebrations. Mandinkas for example regard the kankurang as protectors of newly circumcised youths from evil spirits.
Masquerades which speak in deep voices and communicate their message in proverbs and riddles are important in our community because they:
-serve as entertainment for the public and for gracing occasions during certain times
-Masquerades assist in maintaining discipline and protecting members of the society from evil spirits and witches.
- Masquerades also serve as links between the human world and the spiritual world. During the time of making offerings and pouring of libation to the spiritual world, they become extremely functional for which great fear and respect are accorded to them by ordinary beings.
This masquerade is common among the Jola, an ethnic group found mainly in the Foni district of The Gambia and also in Cassamance, Southern Senegal . The costume it wears is made from leaves of the rhun palm
and is a very unique-looking masked figure resembling the broomstick with a head-pole top. Its dance involves whirling and a finale of spinning around its pole escorted by a group of singers with iron bells.
The kumpo is responsible for protecting the society from evil spirits and ensuring and overseeing communal work such as cleaning up the village. It is believed to have great power but with the passing of time, its purpose has been changed. Instead of offering protection from evil spirits and overseeing communal work it is now predominantly used for entertainment in villages and towns.
The Jola would usually offer food and pour libation to the ancestors, spirits of the forest or bush and the spirits of the masquerades before the kumpocomes out.
About the video: This video is from the late 1980's recorded by the Gambia Film Unit during the first Jangjanbureh cultural festival. Jangjangbureh is a town, founded in 1832 , on Janjanbureh Island in the River Gambia in eastern Gambia . It was formerly known as Georgetown and was the second largest in the country. It is now best known as home to Gambia's main prison . The Wassu stone circles lie near the town . (ps:The video is of poor quality)
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