AFRICAN PUPPETS

LENGOLA
Puppets

 

BAMANA
Puppets

 

BAMANA
Animal Puppets

 

IBIBIO
Puppets

YORUBA
Puppet 29


 BAGA, Sibondel Headdresses 


 

 BAMANA
Animal Puppets


  

EJAGHAM
Figures

YORUBA
Puppet 25

  

BAMANA
Janus Puppet 1

BAMANA
Janus Puppet 2

 

BAMANA
Janus Puppet 3
 

"African Puppets", carved of wood, were used in secular theatrical performances to entertain, narrate, instruct, control or bring social change. Most have limited range of movements, usually the limbs or the lower jaw. The concepts of "speaking" masks and statues have evolved into complex drama traditions among the Bamana people of Mali and the Ibibio of Nigeria.

We have a large colorfully painted selection of human and animal puppets that were used in the Cheko theater of the Bamana. Large bold heads and full human figures mix with ram, antelope, cattle, horse and bird heads to tell stories and often to criticize or ridicule important elders. Also included are some of the half-figures known as "marionettes".

The Ibibio people of southern Nigeria also have an established puppet drama group of the men's Ekon society. Secular performances, often humorous but with serious themes, were dedicated to ancestral spirits. Puppeteers were guaranteed anonymity and protection so they were free to parody village life and satirize prominent members of the community. Also represented are several Nyama "fat-house" girls, with light colors associated with good, beauty and wealth. The puppets were held from below by handles and had movable jaws.

Other tribes have less developed use of puppets and the show is enriched by a group of Nyamwezi puppet figures from Tanzania, some Ekoi / Ejagham pieces, a Yoruba Gelede headdress with puppet, an incredible Bwa crocodile and some puppet-like bird hunter's decoys from No. Nigeria. Altogether they create a fascinating and visually powerful exhibition.

AFRICAN PUPPETS
June 4 - 28, July 7 - 31, 1997

 

 

BAGA, Sibondel Headdresses, Guinea

These large rectangular headdresses are danced principally at marriages. Featuring the head of a hare whose body takes the form of a box, the headdress is actually a sort of miniature stage on top of which an ensemble of figures, human and animal, performs a play.

 

BAMANA, Puppets, Mali

Sogo bo, the puppet masquerade drama of the Bamana, is an exploration of the moral universe.
The relationship between men and women and the problems of domestic relations in polygamous households are important concerns of many Sogo bo performances. Conflict among co-wives is a popular theme in many stories and two of the main characters areBarabara, the Favorite Wife, and the Galomuso, the Bad Wife. Like folktales and other theatrical forms, these masquerade performances throw cultural values and social relationships into high relief and open them up for public scrutiny. The largest group of masquerade characters and the oldest performed in the theater are bush animals (see Bamana Animal Puppets).

 

BAMANA, Animal Puppets, Mali

Sogo bo, the puppet masquerade drama of the Bamana, is an exploration of the moral universe. The largest group of masquerade characters and the oldest performed in the theater are bush animals. In Bamana communities, the bush is defined as the domain of men and the interpretation of the theater's bush animal characters are informed by beliefs and values associated with hunting and with hunters as men of action and society's heros. Over the last decades, at the same time that the actual area of uncultivated land has constricted and the number of hunters have diminished, the definition of the bush and the nature of the hunter/hero have been extended to other arenas of endeavor. In the Sogo bo theater, bush animal masquerades remain important precisely because they are richly drawn and complex metaphors through which to explore the nature of knowledge and power [and] the relationship of the individual to the group.

 

IBIBIO, Puppet Figures, Nigeria

Ekon, an Ibibio men's association, uses puppets to parody village life and satirize the prominent members of the community.

 

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