Ojuju

Phyllis Galembo’s fascination with costume began as a child, when she would go trick-or-treating near her home in Long Island, New York, often alone, dressed in a variety of ensembles made by her mother.

After studying photography and printmaking at the University of Wisconsin, in the 1970s she began photographing subjects wearing festival costumes.

Then, in 1985, she traveled to Nigeria to photograph priests and priestesses with their traditional costumes and ceremonial objects. ‘I was fascinated by the idea of ritual clothes that had spiritual, transforming power. I followed the story to Haiti, where the priests and priestesses of voodoo are believed to transform via their clothing into magical beings. Once I discovered the Jacmel Kanaval [Haiti’s pre-Lenten festival], I felt I had found my metier in the masquerade.’ [text by Lucy Davies]

In the cultural context of costumes, traditional kingdoms and festivals, the coined term “Ojuju” means masquerade. Her work inspires contrasting backgrounds with vibrant fabrics, and sculpted elements that depict the africultural aspect of everyday ritual life. It is often understood in Interior Living that the best way to know about an indigenous people group is to visit their place of worship or sacrifice.