Puppet Masquerades in the Valley of the Niger

by Mary Jo Arnoldi
National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

Performance, Kirango, Mali, 1992. Photo by Mary Jo Arnoldi.


Every masquerade has its own song, which contains both the name of the character and a praise line for the character. Some songs also contain allusions to specific legends or tales, while others link the qualities of the masquerade -- animal or person -- to important community values. While the reappearance every year of older masquerades is much appreciated, innovation and change in the repertoire is also a hallmark of the youth association theater. Some masquerades provide commentary on timeless social themes, while others are created in order to mark important changes in the political, economic and social life of the community and the nation.


Mali; Marka peoples. Puppet Masquerade at Kirango. Video by Mary Jo Arnoldi.