I was in town today to photo document the Westside Carnival 2022. Popularly known as “Ankos”, the carnival is an annual masquerade festival by the people of Sekondi-Takoradi of the Western region of Ghana.
The Ankos festival has gained some popularity over the years and has become the official Christmas celebration of the region.
This cultural festival has enhanced Christmas celebrations to make them more aesthetically pleasing. In as much as I was very much intrigued with the outings and numbers of participants, I was particularly disappointed with the whole Ankos fever as I didn’t feel the usual Ankos vibration.
Over the years I’ve captured portraits, paying particularly attention to details on clothing, style and masks worn. I was looking forward to capturing some more mask artistry this year but was left disappointed as a little over 10% wore masks and the majority of these percentages had their masks on their head rather than covering their faces.
One particular thing about the Ankos (masquerading) is “disguise”. Once one dorn the Ankos dress it means the person has disguised him or herself hence the wearing of masks (a face covering).
The wearing of masks has long been a part of traditional and religious masquerades. According to Miller (2006), masquerade involves a series of rituals that also involve a concealing clothing, pulsating music and drum beats, flickering firelight, aggressive movement, and the audience’s response.
The use of masks in African culture predates the Palaeolithic era, when some scholars attempted to trace the origins of the masquerade culture. Akubor (2016), explains that masks were used in rituals and ceremonies even before the time of written or oral history. It is worth knowing that Africans employed masks in a wider variety of contexts well before written history.
The Chiwara mask (Bambara ethnicity) and the Bundu mask (Mende ethnicity) were worn along with a full-body costumes for agricultural rituals and secret initiations respectively in order to avoid being recognized while performing their duties.
Today I saw a fashion styled -social media craze Ankos carnival than the conventional cultural acts of “tse tse” that I grew up to. Back then you could walk pass a brother or a friend without noticing them because they have disguised themselves from top to bottom.
The wearing of mask is very symbolic to the Ankos. Masquerade, or “Kakamotobi” as it is usually called translates as “scary mask”.
The Cultural relevance of the masquerade festivals has been preserved in Ghana by the annual celebrations by Sekondi-Takoradi, Winneba and other Ghanaian cities known for their love of masquerades, which is common to most civilizations worldwide.
I hope the leaders of the masquerade groups in Sekondi-Takoradi and it environs will give meaning to what Ankos really was/is and help curb these new craze that is gradually taking the symbolism and value off our Ankos and I believe together we can correct the wrongs as we work to make the Westside Masquerade festival a global cultural festival.
Papa Asamoah Angoe