Masquerade, rooted in African festive custom, has been and continues to be, an art form primarily expressed through street performance that traces its development and survival to multi cultural traditions. Emerging in Guyana before emancipation, this “new world” phenomenon is characterized by melodious rhythms, with the principal dance performers including flouncers, Mad Bull, Mother Sally and later additions, Bam Bam Sally and Stilt dancers. They dance energetically to the fife, the snare (aka kittle) drum, the tenor drum, and the steel or triangle. The brightly colored costumes represent the festive mood, while characters, such as Mother Sally parodied the colonial ruling class, thus providing at least temporary psychological and visceral relief. In the colonial and postcolonial history of our country the dancing, music and general participation reflect the ethnic inclusivity of masquerade. The melding of African, East Indian and European cultures features prominently in the festivities. Earlier characters such as Barbadian “Joe Flounce”; “Goblet Joe”; flautist extraordinaire, and later ones like “Potagee”; dance steps influenced by “Scotts Boy”, and new performers in contemporary Guyana masquerade, the peacock and vaquero, are testimony to the Diasporic nature of this unique art form. It is this tradition, survived to the 21st century, that the Guyana Cultural Association will highlight this year. Indeed, Masquerade Lives!
Guyana Folk Festival
Guyana Cultural Association of New York
1368 E. 89 Street, Suite 2
Brooklyn, NY 11236
Tel: 718.209.5207 Fax: 718.209.6157