Sokari Douglas Camp, Big Masquerade with boat and household on his head

Nigeria, AD 1995

Sokari Douglas Camp (born 1958) has lived in London since 1983, but was born in the Kalabari town of Buguma in southern Nigeria where she has returned at regular intervals. This sculpture relates to a contemporary Kalabari masquerade in which water spirits join their worshippers among the world of men.

In Western portrayals of African masquerade it is often the mask alone which is displayed, divorced from its accompanying costume. Yet this figure is not simply intended as a life-like rendering of a masquerade. It has an almost monumental quality which allows the artist to convey the full gravitas of the 'big' masquerade and the equal importance of each individual element of the costume, thus emphasizing the Kalabari belief that the entire body is involved in the masquerade.

As a Kalabari woman, Sokari could not perform in the predominantly male preserve of masquerade, still less make art out of it, particularly using metal, a medium which remains an almost exclusively male domain throughout Africa. However, as an artist her androgynous persona allows her to transcend gender divisions and to move between worlds, like the water spirit she is portraying.

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More information


, Spirits in steel: the art of t (American Museum of Natural History, 1998)

J. Mack (ed.), Africa: arts and cultures (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)

R. Horton and S. Hubbard, Play and display: steel masque (London, Museum of Mankind, British Museum, 1995)


Height: 200.000 cm

Museum number

AOA 1996 Af8.2

not found on MERLIN


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