Puppet Masquerades in the Valley of the Niger

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

Bilanjan, the Bush Creature. Kirango, 1979. Photo by Mary Jo Arnoldi.


Bilanjan is one of these old grass masquerades and it begins its performance in a stately manner, then breaks into an energetic and acrobatic dance. It transforms its shape by twirling, twisting, leaping, and bending in every direction. Its ability to transform itself is associated with the powers of the bush and its performance is always greeted with awe and enthusiasm by the audience.