Although this mask is African in nature and character, the Hunting Devil masquerade belongs to Christian festivities.
There are many hunting societies in Banjul, among which two are the most known; Odilleh Hunting Society and Ekun Baba Odeh Hunting Society. There is always a big competition, especially with the masks they are presenting.
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, giraffes, antelopes, bears, hyenas, etc. Societies are putting a lot of money and effort into obtaining magnificent headpieces, sometimes from another part of the world. In the past years, one of the most adored ones was the white tiger and bear.
The hunting devil also carries a backpack decorated with calabash, cowries, snail shells, rare animal skins, palm fronds and nets. The masks can be heavy, and not everybody can wear them. The body is usually covered in long green leaves. Instead of shoes, white socks are worn, so it can be seen even more how fast the mask-man can dance.
During the parade, the masquerade dances in the front led by a guide, and 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 overreacts.
The parade would move around the streets of Banjul, accompanied by drummers and dancers, while keeping the hunting devil in the middle. People would throw money at them, hoping to bring them good luck. Societies often donate raised money to a meaningful cause, such as paying children's school fees.
The tradition of the Hunting parades comes from the Aku ethnic group, the descendants of the formerly enslaved people, taken to Europe and America and brought back to Sierra Leone. Today, there is quite a strong diaspora of the Aku ethnic group living in Banjul, bringing along this magnificent tradition.
Check out EVENTS section to find out more info about upcoming hunting parades in Banjul.