The “Primitive”

A set of the most amazing “fashion” photographs I’ve come across in a long time — these images from a previous exhibition held at the Tang Museum at Skidmore College are powerful and haunting:

Large-scale color photographs from 2005 to 2006 reflect the ritual adornment and spirituality of masquerade in Nigeria, Benin and Burkina Faso in West Africa. These portraits of masqueraders build on Galembo’s work of the past twenty years photographing the rituals and religious culture in Nigeria, Brazil, Cuba, Jamaica and Haiti, as well as the homegrown custom of Halloween in the United States.”

The photographs speak for themselves:

Panther Masquerade, Samaga Village, Burkina Faso by Phyllis Galembo, 2006

Panther Masquerade, Samaga Village, Burkina Faso by Phyllis Galembo, 2006

Ekpo, Calabar, Nigeria by Phyllis Galembo, 2005

Ekpo, Calabar, Nigeria by Phyllis Galembo, 2005

Agot Dance Group, Etikpe Village, Cross River, Nigeria by Phyllis Galembo, 2004

Agot Dance Group, Etikpe Village, Cross River, Nigeria by Phyllis Galembo, 2004

These are more than costumes, being at once adornments that inscribe religious and social codes. (I cannot claim to have many insights on specific symbolic meanings, however.) But what strikes me when I look at these amazing garments are the architectonic structures that make the wearer at once man and edifice, mortal and deity-sque, human and fantastical.

Their intuitive sense of color also strikes me. (Fashion-wise: I think Andrea Crews?)

What startles me then, is the fine line between the “enduring” myth of primitivism, and how Western designers ceaselessly draw inspiration from the Other.

Louis Vuitton Spring 2009

Louis Vuitton Spring 2009

Yaie Masquerade, Bansie Village, Burkina Faso by Phyllis Galembo, 2006

Yaie Masquerade, Bansie Village, Burkina Faso by Phyllis Galembo, 2006

Not so different, no?

This entry was published on May 27, 2009 at 2:52 pm. It’s filed under Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

One thought on “The “Primitive”

  1. saythefword on said:

    PEKSIES it’s you! love the last photo btw. are you in germany now? i’m going down in 2 weeks.

    and uhh simi si architectonic?

    x. jo.

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