Kakaamotobe, meaning to scare, is known across southern Ghana, West Africa, as Fancy Dress performance. Masqueraders dress in colorful costumes and wear fancy and fierce masks; they dance energetically to drums or brass band music through the main streets of town during holidays, especially during Christmastime. Competitions held in two towns are intense annual events. This lively secular masquerade is a carnival form that has been practiced for well over a century primarily by coastal Fante people, and many additional ethnicities participate today. Kakaamotobe: Fancy Dress Carnival in Ghana explores the fascinating history, aesthetics, performance, and underlying messages of this masquerade with ties to other carnivalesque practices in the Black Atlantic. While Fancy Dress may engage with global cultures through some of its aesthetics, the practice is profoundly African. The utilization of elaborate costumes, masks, and brass bands expresses not a desire to imitate outside cultures, but rather the impulse of youth to adapt traditional culture to the contemporary environment. Courtnay Micots argues that the outward impression of folly belies the more serious refashioning of power, identity, and modernity in the community.
Courtnay Micots is associate professor of art history in the Department of Visual Arts, Humanities, and Theatre at Florida A&M University.
Chapter 1: Introduction to Fancy Dress Carnival
Chapter 2: Retracing the Steps: The History of Fancy Dress
Chapter 3: Local Beliefs and Practices within Fancy Dress
Chapter 4: Inclusivity and Exclusivity: Membership and Aesthetics
Chapter 5: Winneba: Serious Competition
Chapter 6: Sustainable Practices of Masquefest and Carnival as Festival
Chapter 7: The Afro-Brazilian Contribution to Fancy Dress
Chapter 8: Fancy Dress and Silliness: Transformation of Power and Global Modernity
Fancy Dress – a festive hybrid performance genre with colorful costuming and masks, set to pulsating brass-band music – is wonderfully analyzed in this pioneering book, showing Black Atlantic carnival, Brazilian and Caribbean influences melding in a thoroughly Ghanaian form. With parades, balls, skits, street dancing and a host of imported and local characters, this lively, secular, democratic, century-old artistic complex has never before been shown in such historical and contemporary depth and detail.
Observation of Kakaamotobe for over a decade provides a sound basis for Micots’s profound contribution to understanding the arts of fancy dress. This book is insightful and a delight to read.
A prodigious work of scholarship, and a deep dive into the subject based on sustained relationships.
View supplemental images and video HERE.