Phyllis Galembo: Maske at Boca Raton Museum of Art, through September 20, 2020*

“These images are nearly life-size and explore spiritual realms of these masquerade cultures with brilliant, mesmerizing colors. For more than 30 years, Phyllis Galembo has travelled around the world to photograph participants in contemporary mask-making and masquerade events that range from traditional religious ceremonies to secular celebrations.

Galembo’s portraits are celebrated by the world’s leading fine art photography editors for their stunning resonance. Through her lens, the viewer gains special access to these rarely seen other-worlds as she captures the raw and sometimes frightening aspects of masks and ceremonial garb. She has made over twenty trips to sites of ritual masquerades, capturing cultural performances with a subterranean edge. The masking seen through her photographs is a complex, mysterious, and profound tradition in which the participants transcend the physical world and enter the spiritual realm.” ― Boca Raton Museum of Art 

“I like the way viewers can grasp the real stories behind each image. Every mask, costume and fiber of material can represent so much to the people in these portraits,” adds Galembo. “Many of these subjects created these ritual costumes because a spirit inspired them. These are people who make masks and costumes that are very spiritually motivated,” says Galembo. 

Agot Dance Group by Phyllis Galembo

Agot Dance Group, Etikpe Village, Cross River, Nigeria 2004 Ilfochrome

Otoghe-Toghe by Phyllis Galembo

Otoghe-Toghe, Aromgba Village, Nigeria 2005 Ilfochrome

Banana Leaf Masquerade by Phyllis Galembo

Banana Leaf Masquerade, EkongIkon Ukom, Calabar, Nigeria 2005 Ilfochrome

Ekpeyong Edet by Phyllis Galembo

Ekpeyong Edet Dance Group, Nigeria 2005 Ilfochrome

Ekpo by Phyllis Galembo

Ekpo, Calabar, Nigeria 2005 Ilfochrome

Affianwan by Phyllis Galembo

Affianwan, Calibar South, Nigeria 2005 Ilfochrome

Jaguar Style or Ekong-Itaghafon by Phyllis Galembo

Jaguar style or Ekong-Itaghafon, Calabar, Nigeria 2005 Ilfochrome

by PhyllisGalembo'

Akata Dance Masqueraders, Ogoja, Nigeria 2004 Ilfochrome

Akata Dance by Phyllis Galembo

Akata Dance Masquerade, Cross River, Nigeria 2004 Ilfochrome

You Can't Buy Wisdom at the Market by Phyllis Galembo

You Can’t Buy Wisdom at the Market, Benin 2006 Ilfochrome

Aye Loja Gelede Masquerade by Phyllis Galembo

Aye Loja (The World is a Market Place that we Visit), Gelede Masquerade, Agonli Village, Benin 2006 Ilfochrome

Ringo (Big Deer) by Phyllis Galembo

Ringo (Big Deer) Masquerade, Kroo Bay, Sierra Leone 2008 Ilfochrome

Two in a Fancy Dress by Phyllis Galembo

Two in a Fancy Dress, Red Cross Masquerade Group, Winneba, Ghana 2010 Ilfochrome

Apprentice Tailor, 2006

Egungun, Adandokpodji Village, Benin 2006 Ilfochrome

Awo-O-Dudu by Phyllis Galembo

Awo-O-Dudu (A Spirit They Saw), Freetown, Sierra Leone 2008 Ilfochrome

“For many people all over the world now, creating and wearing masks feels like a way they can reclaim some personal power,” said Phyllis Galembo. “Protective face masks aren’t just medical anymore, we can see on social media how they are becoming a part of fashion, of our cultural landscape. Ways that people can convey messages and reflect their own personality.”

As a new wave of mask-making creativity takes hold, Boca Raton Museum of Art education team has created new digital pathways for the public to enjoy online. These include mask-related online activities for families who are still at home, and video gallery tours for all ages.

Images courtesy Boca Raton Museum of Art.

*PLEASE NOTE: Boca Raton Museum of Art will reopen to the public on Wednesday, June 3. The museum offers free admission to all guests through September of this year, as a special way to give back to the community.