Saturday, February 28, 2009

The 160th good thing about Lagos: A canoe trip to the Ikogbo village masquerade festival

I was so happy this weekend when our fast internet connection returned! We went on this great outing a couple of weeks ago and I've been wanting to blog about it and post some pictures, but our backup internet connection was so slow that it would have been tortuous. So -- here it is at last -- our trip with the Nigerian Field Society to a masquerade festival at Ikogbo village. As I've waited to be able to post about this, I've gotten access to photos from several others in our group, and I've made use of some of their pictures here -- especially useful since our camera battery died half-way through the festival, so it was great to get pictures from the entire very interesting day. (But I'll only post a fraction of the over 350 pictures from the day on my computer! Also, my videos weren't posting through blogger, for some reason, so I tried posting them through youtube. Hopefully that will work okay!)

Our outing started with a long convoy of cars (it ended up being a very large group of people going on this trip) driving outside of Lagos to a small village where we parked the cars and canoes were waiting for us on this inland waterway. Our group was quite the attraction in this village and local people came out from all over to watch the oyibos get on the boats.

We had a beautiful hour-long canoe trip through a peaceful jungle-like setting. There was no noise and no trash and not many signs at all of civilization -- a complete contrast from our normal Lagos surroundings.

Here and there were discarded, or waiting boats at the side of the waterway.

There were lots of flowering lily pads and other flowers blooming along the water.

Several times we encountered boats full of friendly villagers travelling in the other direction.

Nearing the end of our trip on the water, we came to an area with lots of floating water plants -- no one seemed to be sure what they were, but they were something with a very shallow root system. They covered the surface of the water.

At the end of our canoe trip, we left the boats and had a short walk through the woods to the village.

We were met at the edge of the village by a receiving party with one costumed villager, several drummers, and lots of enthusiastic local people. We followed them into Ikogbo village.

Notice this guy in the second video with the stick beating people back. This was going on throughout all the performances. They don't hold back with crowd control in Nigeria!

As we walked through the village, we saw that some of the village buildings were quite rudimentary.

Others were substantial concrete structures, a few of which had interesting architectural detail.

Our crowd of visitors was quite an attraction. This little girl seemed a bit scared of us.

With our fee for the outing, our group had provided funds for the village to buy a cow for the festival. There was a lot of cooking activity going on during the festivities.

We brought our own lunch, so we didn't get to sample theirs...

Right before the main masquerade show, they brought out a jerry can full of palm wine and invited our group to have a drink. The can looked pretty dirty, but maybe the alcoholic content would kill any germs. Some people commented that there was no evidence of the maggots that are sometimes found in palm wine, as they are common around the palm fruit tree. The smell was pretty powerful, but we declined a taste. ;o)

Lots of babies and children all around.

Before the main masquerade, we were invited in the oba's house to meet the chief and the oba (don't ask me the administrative differences between the two -- I don't know. The oba is like a king and is an older man, the chief was younger. But I don't know if the oba is over the chief in the hierarchy, or if they are related). The building, which was considered the oba's palace, just had a large meeting area with a raised platform where the chief sat on a throne. The nice Mercedes belonging to one of the leaders was outside the building -- that clued me in that the village is accessible by road. Our group organizer wanted us to take the scenic route into the village -- and I'm glad she did!

The oba and the chief.

Other village elders were pleased to pose for photos.

The chief and his family -- though I'm sure this isn't his only wife.

There was celebrating inside the "palace" as well.

Outside, they brought in chairs for us under a large tree.

The chief and other important people of the village had seats under a tent. Regular village folk just stood around to watch the festivities.

Some women brought out some snacks to sell -- the village concession stand.

The drummers took their places and started pounding. They were the most amazing performers to me -- though the masqueraders took turns with their active parts, the drummers kept it up the entire 2 hours of the main performance we watched. My forearms would have been aching in half the time. (By the way, this richly colored picture of the drummers and others on this post, as well as the black and white shots, were taken by another member of our group who obviously is a more talented photographer than I. I'm so glad he was willing to share his photos!)

The local folk were getting into the action even before the main show started.

Then more masqueraders started to arrive.

Whenever a new dancer came out to join the fun, they went over and kneeled in front of the chief and he waved his flywhisk over them in a kind of motion of blessing.

The crowd control enforcer moving in for some stick action.

During a part of the masquerade, some of the dancers did some moves where they had layers of costume covering them in a drape and they would change their look with rolling over one of their costume layers which had been spread out on the ground.

The transformation was always met with cheers from the crowd.

There was a lot of excitement when one of the dancers appeared on the roof of the palace. The village crowd loved watching his moves up there.

Through it all, the drummers kept a'drumming!

Nobody in our group seemed to know for sure, but we assumed that this woman with the special hat (crown?) was a wife of the oba.

There was a short break in the middle when the chief left to go inside to get something to eat.

In the next part of the masquerade, there was a different kind of costumed performer. They were more animal-like costumes and they didn't do the twirly kind of dancing typical of the earlier group with the draped costumes.

We had been requested to bring new (as opposed to the more typical crumpled and filthy) 20 naira notes (each worth around 13 cents) to dash to the performers. Each performer would make the rounds to get the donations from the crowd, and we made sure the drummers got some "dash" as well.

This performer was on a leash and he acted quite ferociously, charging at the crowd.

He scared a whole group of village children, making them run away in terror, and wouldn't stop until their mothers gave him some money.

I thought some of these costumes looked quite Asian.

The villagers likely were going to continue the celebrating through the day, but after we reached our deadline, many of them escorted us back through the village (notice the graves right next to many of the houses).

We boarded the canoes again,

and waved goodby to the residents of Ikogbo village.

Thankfully, no spills on the boat trip back -- it was a memorable day!