Cheryl Koralik, ‘GLA Dancing’, ca. 1990, Elisa Contemporary

In Burkina Faso, Africa with photographer Cheryl Koralik, we discover the tribal masques and raffia dress and adornments worn in Animist ceremonies. Animism believes that not only humans but all natural phenomena, natural objects, and the universe, embody a soul or spirit. Animists propagate the doctrine that the soul is the main driving force of life. She has captured the other-worldly essence of these rituals.

According to photographer Cheryl Koralik, “One day, while driving through Bobo she saw men adorned in raffia (a straw-like fiber) running through the streets with whips. I followed the men and discovered a whole new world—the spirit world of West Africa and the sacred masques. The chief of the village had died and, for weeks on end, the funeral rites would continue. Tradition played its role as guns fired in salute, the women sang a cappella and, as the balafons (West African xylophone) began to play, the sacred masques danced themselves into trances, acting as mediators while channeling the supernatural world of the dead in order to safely lead the deceased’s soul to rest with those of his ancestors: ceremonial protection through animistic beliefs, the spirit world unveiled….Thus began for me a new quest, a new photographic endeavor and a new journey—one filled with passion and magic that would take me to several West African countries.”

About Cheryl Koralik:
Cheryl Koralik's career as a photographer began while studying at Columbia College in Chicago under the tutelage of Bob Thall, Ruth Thorne-Thomsen and Alan Cohen. After decades as a successful fashion and advertising photographer, Cheryl moved in a new direction.

She began to explore a photojournalistic path and traveled to India and Burkina Faso on humanitarian assignments with the non-governmental organization, Action on Disability and Development. This is when she discovered the West African masques. And, suddenly, with an organic force and a passionate surge of obligation, her life changed completely. She found her true voice. Thus began a new chapter in her photographic career—the masque series.

Over the next two decades, she made several expeditions to various West African countries, researching and photographing tribal masques—mediums of the spirit world—and their associated rituals.

About Cheryl Koralik