Rare Photographs Of The Dancing Devils Of Liberia
The Liberian dancing devils assume the role of bush devils, spirits that originate from the spiritual world of the ‘Poro’, or ‘bush’. The communities they belong to have long been a part of the culture of certain ethnic groups that constitute present-day Liberia. In the Poro context, the dancing devils are not regarded as evil— they have the ability to inflict punishment on individuals, though this is only used to bring order to society. The devils used to dance only at traditional festivals, though with the arrival of the freed and freeborn American settlers in the 1800s, they brought their dance to imported Christian holiday celebrations such as Christmas. Despite the devils’ ability to adapt, the christian Americans became the ruling class and pushed these unorthodox traditional customs to the underground.
“It is said that if you photograph the Bush Devils (of Liberia), the pictures won’t come out” says British photographer Conor Beary, “whether or not there is any truth to that I don’t know, but I’m not to keen on the initiation process so thought I’d skip that and document the Dancing Devils”.