All photos by Eva Fydrych / Fashion Studio Magazine
Musha-Galusa Art Africain in Montreal is a beautiful gallery featuring a huge selection of West African masks, sculptures, jewellery and fabrics. The collection has been carefully selected over the years by its owner, Guy Mushagalusa Chigoho, during his countless travels across the African continent.
Although different types of masks are sold in most African (and American) markets, these masks are only replicas of the original ones used in African societies. Most African masks are passed down from one generation to the next, and masks that have truly been used in African ceremonies are almost never found on the open market.
It is worth noticing that all masks displayed at Musha-Galusa gallery are authentic and they are still in use. Most of them come from Mali, Kongo, and other Central and West African countries. Some pieces were found in Tanzania.
Mr Chigoho is the son of an African mask-dancer and he keeps the tradition alive by mixing old with contemporary, organizing exhibitions, and promoting African culture in the heart of Montreal. He started collecting and selling art more than twenty years ago and has an extensive network of contacts around the world. The gallery was open a year ago at its present location (278 Sherbrooke Street West). It is a must-see destination not only for art lovers, but for everyone visiting the city!
ABOUT THE AFRICAN MASKS
Ritual and ceremonial masks are an essential feature of the culture and art of the peoples of Subsaharan and West Africa. Masked dances are a part of most traditional African ceremonies related to weddings, funerals, and initiation rites. Every mask has a specific spiritual meaning therefore only selected persons have the privilege to wear them. In many cases, only men can wear masks, and most specifically elders or men of high social status.
Many African societies see masks as mediators between the living world and the supernatural world of the dead, ancestors and other entities. Masks became the attribute of a dressed up dancer who gave them life and word at the time of ceremonies. The dancer goes into a trance and transforms into the spirit he represents and enables communication between the spirit world and the material world to take place.
Masking ceremonies have usually many different functions, however they can be divided into three main categories: bringing spirits to life, social control and instruction, and entertainment during community festivals.
In producing a mask, a sculptor's aim is to depict a person's psychological and moral characteristics, rather than provide a portrait. The sculptor begins by cutting a piece of wood and leaving it to dry in the sun; if it cracks, it cannot be used for a mask. African sculptors see wood as a complex living material and believe each piece can add its own feature to their work.
Having made certain the wood is suitable, the sculptor begins, using an azde to carve the main features, a chisel to work on details and a rough leaf to sand the piece. He then paints the mask with pigments such as charcoal (to give a black colour), powders made from vegetable matter or trees (for ochre/earth tones) or mineral powders like clay (to give a white colour).
African people often symbolize death by the colour white rather than black; at the same time, many African cultures see white as the colour that links them to their ancestors, and it can therefore have a positive meaning.
In most cases, mask-making is an art that is passed on from father to son, along with the knowledge of the symbolic meanings conveyed by such masks. The mask will remain in the family and community for years, and will eventually be passed down through the generations.
Source: African Masks Symbolism, Wikipedia
Mr. Guy Mushagalusa Chigoho, Gallery Owner, posing with his lucky stick from Kongo
All photos by Eva Fydrych
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MUSHA-GALUSA ART AFRICAIN
278 Sherbrooke Street West
Montréal (QC) H2X 1X9
Phone: (+1) 514 649 3898
Gallery's website: MUSHA-GALUSA ART AFRICAIN