Musée Dapper, Paris
5th October 2011 - 15th July 2012
35 bis Rue Paul Valéry, 75116 Paris, France
+33 1 45 00 91 75

The "Year of French Overseas Departments and Territories" has provided the Musée Dapper with a unique opportunity to showcase African arts alongside Caribbean creativeness. In Africa, festivities regularly marked the end of the initiation undergone by adolescents to prepare them for adulthood. Harvest home, the coronation of a king or chief, and the commemoration of the deceased would also serve as pretexts for ritual celebration. Masks would be brought out and paraded in front of everyone, inspiring emotion and fascination in equal measure.

Today, masquerades continue to enthuse and enthral crowds attending the major annual festivals and the gatherings held to celebrate special events, such as the election of a head of state or the visit of an important foreign dignitary.

Elsewhere, in the Americas and more particularly in the West Indies, local people derive their thrills and excitement from annual carnivals. Rooted in the traditional European carnivals, which are still very much alive, these events also draw their inspiration from the ceremonies and festivals of non-Western societies. Although they differ in several respects, masquerades and carnivals are both experienced as rituals and elicit the formation of communities.

The exhibits from Sub-Saharan Africa consist mainly of a wide diversity of wooden face masks, where human features are frequently juxtaposed with references to the animal world. Many of these masks are shown complete with their astonishing costumes made from fibres or feathers, as in the case of the carved mask from the Museum für Völkerkunde in Munich. Some of these costumes reflect highly original forms of expression involving the multilayering of colourful fabrics, the Yoruba egungun costume (Benin, Nigeria) being a particularly interesting example.