Aperture is pleased to release a special limited-edition photograph by Phyllis Galembo on the occasion of the reissue of her book Maske by Aperture. 

For over two decades, Galembo has documented cultural and religious traditions in Africa and among the African Diaspora. Traveling widely throughout western and central Africa, and regularly to Haiti, Galembo photographs participants in masquerade events—traditional African ceremonies and contemporary costume parties and carnivals—who use costume, body paint, and masks to create mythic characters. 


This image was made in the Eshinjok Village in Nigeria, "where the costume traditions and dance societies within individual villages vary widely. Some troupes wear bright crocheted costumes rich with symbols evoking spiritual powers. They perform on commission, appearing at ceremonies and celebrations such as funerals, coronations, and weddings. While the masked performers are always male, they represent both the male and female spirits," notes Galembo. Setting up an outdoor studio, Galembo would wait for the masqueraders, who would show up in twos or threes, often accompanied by attendants, children, and other onlookers.


 Sometimes entertaining and humorous, often dark and frightening, her portraits document and describe the transformative power of the mask.


Phyllis Galembo (born in New York City, 1952) has been a professor in the Fine Arts Department of SUNY Albany since 1978. Galembo has made over twenty trips to sites of ritual masquerade in Africa and the Caribbean, capturing cultural performances with a subterranean political edge. Her photographs have been exhibited by museums including the American Museum of Natural History, New York; George Eastman House, Rochester, New York; Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York; Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.; and Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography. In 1994, Galembo received a Senior Fulbright Research Award to photograph Kings, Chiefs and Women of Power: Images from Nigeria. In 2001 she received a Hasselblad Masters Award as well as an Artist’s Fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts. She lives and works in New York City.

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