Where I come from, there is no Halloween. We have masquerades. My last memorable trip to my grandfather’s village in Ogun state Nigeria was when I was barely a teenager. It was a festive period, and it always came with a carnival of masques, mostly manned by youths of around and a little above my age. Many of the masquerades there always went with whips and canes sometimes to scare, and sometimes as a ritual part of the carnival experience.
There is one particular carnival outing of masquerades that involves whipping. Young men with long vine whips lashing at themselves in the spirit of the festival. It was always something fun to see, and to participate it, unless of course you’re being whipped, and that can be guaranteed by a mere possession of a whip. The masks are colourful and deep vessels of Yoruba spirituality and fun. A Nigerian musician Lagbaja must have had the cultural import of the mask in mind when he adopted the masquerade as his stage persona.
Now here in America where the word masquerade doesn’t mean much beyond fanciful images in children’s toy stories, there is Halloween – a playful celebration with almost similarly religious overtone. It takes place on the last day of October, featuring the scariest and (for women) sluttiest constumes, I’ve been told. It’s activities also includes “ghost tours, bonfires, costume parties, visiting haunted attractions, carving jack-o’-lanterns, pranking people, reading scary stories, and watching horror movies.” (Wikipedia). This could as well be one of the most fun events of my journey. But who knows? Like most kids growing up, I’ve always fancied a time of unmoderated delinquency in festivals and open outdoor activities. Maybe this is it. It will be something trying to figure out the right pranks to play on all my flatmates when the time comes. That will be fun. I’ve also never totally figured out the idea behind that scary looking pumpkin with a face carved out of it, glowing in the dark, so there is plenty for me to learn here, definitely.
The second dilemma is finding out the right costumes. But before you suggest it, please note that I will not be making up as President Obama. Besides the problem of finding the right ear size, I am taller than him, and I’ve been told that many people might end up wearing the same costume, so there goes my brilliant ideas. It would definitely not be fun to be one of many people having the same face in a Halloween party, would it? On the other hand, I could dress as Nigeria’s president. The problem with that is one, that nobody would know who I’m dressed as, and two, that even if they do, they might not find it funny or innovative. I won’t be dressing as the great Pharaoh either because that mask on my face in the picture above is now far, far away from my present location. As soon as the the picture was taken, back in Providence many moons ago, I promptly handed it back to the Egyptian woman who brought it, and went my way.
So what/who is it going to be? Perhaps time will tell.