Hunting Devil, the masquerade of the Aku tribe

Although this mask is African in nature and character, the Hunting Devil masquerade belongs to Christian festivities. Hence the Hunting goes on recess each Lenten season; during this period, all activities are suspended. The groups responsible for the Hunting parade are called the Hunting society.

The Hunting is normally costumed in recycled jute sacks embellished with cowries and wears a headdress made of horn or embalmed or carved heads of wild animals like Lions, tigers, antelopes, bears, Hyenas and more. It also carries a backpack decorated with calabash, cowries, snail shells, rare animal skins, palm fronds and nets.

During the parade, the masquerade dances in the front led by a guide, another person stays by the Hunting with a calabash containing palm oil alongside a broom used to sprinkle the palm oil on the backpack. This person also chants some incantations to calm the Hunting down whenever it is overreacting.

ORIGIN

The Hunting is said to originate from the Yoruba clan known as Ijessa in Nigerian. It is called in the Gambia as Egun Odeh. In the Gambia, Hunting is associated with the Aku tribe, who were freed slaves. These people were taken to America during the slave trade and return to Freetown, later to Bathurst, now known as Banjul. They are believed to be the people who brought the Hunting masquerade to the Gambia.
Diamond Hunting Society was the first hunting society in the Gambia. Later a breakaway group from Diamond formed another society called Akpata Hunting Society, followed by many other small groups. Today the leading Hunting Societies in the Gambia are the Odilleh Hunting Society and the Ekun Baba Hunting Society.

THE SIGNIFICANCE AND ASSOCIATED CEREMONIES OF THE HUNTING MASQUERADE

In the Gambia, the Hunting exhibition regularly occurs on Christmas days, Easter or other Christian holidays. Sometimes the Hunting can perform at the wedding of brothers of the Society or close family. Funerals of deceased members or other events relate to Hunters calenders. In the olden day’s Hunters were taught the art of herbal cure. Today, in addition to hunting expeditions, the Hunting society does cultural performance purely for entertainment.

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