Lecture Series

“Igbo/West African Masquerade Culture and the Dynamics of African Diaspora Carnivals”

Presented by: Dr. Raphael Njoku, Idaho State University

The masquerade tradition is extensive across human society, but the Igbo genre, which was part of the Biafra hinterland culture, is unique because it constituted an integral part of the religious, political, and culture of remembering and narratology. Considering the Igbo masquerade within the diverse cultural tapestry of other masquerading traditions in West Africa throws perspective light on the origins, religious idioms, symbols, internal and diasporic diffusions, and the music, dance, and drama that accompany African and African Diaspora masks and masquerade performances. It explains what happened to masquerading traditions when Africans were forcefully brought to the Americas and how these traditions changed (over time) during slavery. The journey of the Igbo/West African masquerade across the Atlantic is both literal and metaphorical. The voyage explains the intricate ties between African and African American cultural artifacts, and their new directions. Transmutations in the genre continued to use narrative to promote identity, propagate, defend or pursue a cause, and recover or reshape self-consciousness in a continually changing world. In this study, memory is the story of remembering, a narrative approach to the unfolding of events. There is a story behind every masquerade display. Masquerading was one among many African reactions to the encounter with slavery and colonialism. More than entertainment, it is a performance of collective remembering, an instrument of social control, and an effective affirmative narrative technique.

Meet the Speaker

Raphael Chijioke Njoku, African history Professor at Idaho State University, received a doctorate in African history from Dalhousie University, Canada, in 2003 and a doctorate in political science from Vrije University, Belgium, in 2001. His research specialty is intellectual history, African/Igbo history, especially cultural history, decolonization, African Diaspora studies, African politics, and Globalization studies. He is the author of West African Masking Traditions and African Diaspora Masquerade Carnivals: History, Memory, and Transnationalism (Rochester University Press, 2020) and United States and Africa Relations: 1400s to the Present (Yale University Press, 2020). Njoku has published 12 books and 45 articles in academic journals and edited volumes. He is currently the Chair of the Department of Global Studies and Languages at ISU.



American Frontier Culture FoundationVirginia Humanities