Fusions: Masquerades and thought style east of the Niger-Benue confluence, West Africa

£55.00 £45.00

Richard Fardon

ISBN 9781872843605

Fusions argues that the masquerades of West Africa’s Upper Benue River area materialise the thought styles of their original creators and users. ‘Theranthropic’ masquerades fuse characteristics of animals with those of living and dead human beings to create entities that perform the powers and dangers in people’s lives. The variety of masquerades corresponds to varied interpretations of the human condition

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Description

Fusions, by Richard Fardon, takes the masks of West Africa’s Upper Benue River region out of the museums and private collections, where many accumulated in the twentieth century, and restores their cultural and social contexts. The book argues that Benue masquerades deserve appreciation as the materialized forms taken by the thought styles of their original creators and users. Masquerades are ‘theranthropic’: they fuse characteristics of animals with those of living and dead human beings to create entities to perform the powers and dangers inherent in people’s lives.The subtle variety of the ways that different masquerades, and other performances, achieve this, reveals facets of an understanding of the human condition: of relations between the genders, the living and the dead, animals and people, kings and commoners … . By demonstrating the similarities in both their conceptions and uses, Fusions will change the way readers look at, and understand, the masquerades of the entire Benue River. Longer blurb: Fusions takes the masks of West Africa’s Upper Benue River region out of the museums and private collections, where many accumulated in the twentieth century, and restores their cultural and social contexts.

The book argues that Benue masquerades deserve appreciation as the materialized forms taken by the thought styles of their original creators and users. Masquerades are ‘theranthropic’: they fuse characteristics of animals with those of living and dead human beings to create entities to perform the powers and dangers inherent in people’s lives. The subtle variety of the ways that different masquerades, and other performances, achieve this, reveals facets of an understanding of the human condition: of relations between the genders, the living and the dead, animals and people, kings and commoners, colours, seasons and so forth, shared by the peoples of the Benue.

Part One provides an intensive analysis of Chamba masquerade (of the Cameroon/Nigeria border area), based in fieldwork experience stretching over three decades, as well as accounts both of the history of collection of Chamba masquerades from the earliest colonial times, and of their local formal variation, based on research in museums, private collections and archives.

Attention moves westwards in Part Two to an analysis of Mumuye masquerade, and a bold revisionist reading of the many forms of Jukun masks, before surveying the significance of the now-defunct masquerade traditions of the Jos Plateau of Nigeria.

Part Three moves eastward from the Chamba to demonstrate that peoples who had no masquerades in the strict sense, nonetheless materialized a similar thought style through their use of actual skulls and animals. By showing the similarities in both their conceptions and uses, Fusions will change the way readers look at, and understand, the masquerades of the Benue River region.

Profusely illustrated, and with numerous tables and diagrams, the account guides the reader through what is, in art-historical terms, one of the most celebrated of West Africa’s style regions. Like its companion volume on statuary (Column to Volume, Afriscopes, 2005), Fusions demonstrates the scholarly dividends that come from blending long-term ethnographic familiarity with particular cultures, research in museums and archives, and anthropological comparison based upon a critical rereading of previous writers. The subject and method of this inter-disciplinary endeavour will interest social anthropologists, art historians and collectors, as well as providing the state-of-the-art account of Upper Benue masquerades.

ERRATA [IMPORTANT POST-PUBLICATION INFO FOR READERS]

The Chamba masks in Figure 3a i, Figure 3a ii, Figure 3a iii, Figure 3b, Figure 3d i, Figure 3d ii, Figure 3h, and Figure 3o ii have been reversed in printing. Because undamaged Chamba masks are symmetrical laterally, this will not be apparent immediately, However, this error has the effect that written descriptions of damage, and of bipartite colouring, do not tally with the photographic evidence. Apologies are offered for this error both to readers and to copyright holders.

About the Author

Richard Fardon began research in Cameroon and Nigeria in the mid-1970s. Since 1988, he has taught anthropological theory and the ethnography of West Africa at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Author or editor of numerous books on anthropology generally and West Africa in particular: his most recent publications include a companion volume to this, Column to Volume: formal innovation in Chamba statuary (with Christine Stelzig, Saffron/Afriscopes, 2005), and Lela in Bali: history through ceremony in Cameroon (Berghahn/Cameroon Studies, 2006).

He was Chairman of the University of London’s Centre of African Studies for eight years, and he has been editor of AFRICA, the Journal of the International African Institute, since 2001. Together with Graham Furniss and Francis Nyamnjoh, he is series editor of Saffron’s Afriscopes.

Table of Contents

Afriscopes – the series
Acknowledgements
List of illustrations

1 |  Introduction — Posing the problem – fusion masquerades and the materialisation of thought style; Comparison, materiality, method; The formal distribution of horizontal masks 

PART ONE  |  CHAMBA MASQUERADE

2 |  The ethnographer’s account – a singular fusion

3 |  Accenting the masquerade – template and variety
Chamba masquerade: template; Chamba masquerade: early colonial documentation (1903-21); The German colonial period before the Frobenius expedition; Leo Frobenius’s Chamba expedition (1911-12); Lilley’s collection under British administration (1921); Variety in Chamba masks summarised; Post-colonial acquisitions and the composition of the Chamba collection; Conclusion
PART TWO  |  WESTWARD – FUSION MASQUERADES

4 |  Mumuye masquerade – fusion refracted by gender

5 |  Jukunoid masquerades – fusion refracted by gender and animality; Aku-ma – myth and form; Other Jukun masquerades; Aku and aku-ma in performance; Around the edges of the Jukun; Goemai – aku appropriated; Kuteb and Yukuben – animal-human dimorphism revised; Conclusion – formal variation in Jukunoid masks

6 |  On the margins of comparison
Northward – bovid referents diversified; Southward – animal referents multiplied; Mambila; Wuli (with notes on Wawa and Yamba); Dii    ; Toward the Grassfields – the pitfalls of formal comparison 

PART THREE  |  EASTWARD – FUSION WITHOUT MASQUERADES

7 |  Two types of absence – Pere and Koma; Pere – coevals without masquerade; Koma – masquerade inverted; Conclusion

8 |  Death and fusion – Dowayo

9 |  Conclusion | Bovine theranthropic fusion materialised – a regional thought style

Appendix | Table: Chamba masks in collections

Bibliography |  Published sources; Unpublished sources

Index

Additional product information
Publisher, Year and Edition London: Saffron Books, 2007, First Edition
ISBN-13 / ISBN-10 9781872843605 / 1872843603
Series Saffron Afriscopes Series | ISSN 1748-6262
Pages 208
Illustrations, Colour & B&W 88
Binding and Size h x w mm Hard cover, no jacket, endpapers, 305mm(h)x218mm(w)
Spine 22mm
Shipping Weight [grams] 1300

Additional information

Weight 1325 kg
ISBN-10HB

1872843603

ISBN-13HB

9781872843605

Illustrations

88 colour and black and white

Pages

208

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