Last week marked the 14th edition of Dédougou’s FESTIMA (Festival International des Masques et des Arts de Dédougou). The event is held every two years and while there are other mask festivals around, FESTIMA is unique in that it shows off many different styles of masks all at the same time in the same place. Masks were mainly from Burkina, but groups from Benin, Togo, and Mali were also involved. Most of the spectators were from the immediate area, but the festival did draw some groups of international (mostly French) tourists.
Griots, along with other musicians, would bring the masks to life with their music – usually drums or a flute-type instrument. Each group, composed of griots, musicians, three to eight masks and a few others would perform at a time. Most masks represented animals while others represented spirits from the bush. It is said that once the performer dons his mask (women are not permitted to wear masks) he becomes the animal/spirit he is wearing. Locals told us that it often helps that the performer is a little tipsy.
Check out some of my favorite images from the festival below (and thanks to Hayley, who borrowed my camera for a few of these shots as I was trapped in the office during parts of the week). I’ll get some of the great video footage up once I get suitably fast internet.