- Materials: Steel, feathers, wood and mirrors
- Dimensions: 227 cm high
- Housed: American Museum of National History
Alagba is a female masquerade, a water spirit that is female.
During a masquerade ceremony the Kalabari people of Nigeria perform dances in costumes that hide their identity. There is a seventeen year span of worshipping gods from the sea. Water has a lot to do with Kalabari life because we live on a series of islands in the Niger Delta. Only men can perform these ceremonies but women can watch when they are undertaken in public.
Alagba, when she performs, wears a large head-dress. This makes the dancers head so large that from a distance the performer looks like a child because his head-dress is proportionally so much larger than the rest of his body. Alagba has beautiful regalia; feathers, mirrors, Christmas tree balls, tinsel and Alu Bete blue. (A ceremonial cloth with animals and symbols drawn on it.) All these elements added to Alagba’s character of uncertainty and glamour are very endearing. Alagba’s performance also has an edge in that the performer has to be tested to see if he can understand the talking drum.
There is more than one Alagba performing when the Alagba Ti (the play / performance) happens. The details of tension, beauty and godliness are very inspiring and electric when remembering Alagba’s performances. Alagba has paddles in her hands rather like small cricket bats or flattened baseball bats. These are used to bang her anklets at certain moments during her performances. The dancer has to control a large head-dress, flowing regalia and to move around a spacious arena without showing that he is a man. Quite a task for any one to achieve.
Sekibo (a person who dances) is a sculpture that was made to lighten up the intensity of the masquerade characters that made up the show of Play and Display which I had in 1994 at the Museum of Mankind in London. Sekibo represents the men that are part of the secret society that both dance with the masqueraders and dress up as masqueraders. He is a link between the audience and the spiritual world of the masquerade characters.
l have always admired how Kalabari men can dress in a traditional outfit of tartan patterned skirts, Victorian night shirts with bowler hats and walking sticks. In this unusually stylish atire they jump and turn in the air following the masqueraders and keep the crowd back whilst sometimes also leading the masquerade procession itself.
I hope that together these two sculptures give the viewer a frame for, or a picture of, what a Kalabari performance is like.
- Materials: Steel and wood
- Dimensions: 33cm x 56cm x 51cm
- Housed: Sold to private buyer
“The sculpture will be made of steel with (non-functional) oars powered by kinetic movement. The idea is influenced by boats from the Niger Delta which are two storey dug out canoes, with bunting and outboard engines; these boats have 40 to 45 men paddling them and huge sails. Their structure has elements of the British long boats that came to get slaves and goods from Africa to take back to Europe. The long boats looked weird and wonderful to the local African people and it is this element of surprise – of an unexpected and strange floating structure – that I want to recapture.
The Festival Boat is a celebratory idea. I like the idea of people being able to run to the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal to see a spectacle: a sculpture that reminds us of our collective maritime history in the twenty first century”. Sokari Douglas Camp
Festival Boat will be an iconic vessel. In flux on the water it will be a visual expression of the multiples of invisible, mercurial connections which exist between people, countries, time and place. Its references will be wide-ranging: Kalabari Masquerade and the celebratory festival canoes on the Nigerian Delta; European slave ships and historical trade links between the Manchester Ship Canal and the Commonwealth; contemporary issues of identity and history for British Africans and African Caribbeans; the regeneration of the Liverpool and the Salford Quays and the mutual interdependence of the cities of Manchester and Liverpool.