Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Igbo Masquerade


 One of the reasons I love going to the village during the festive season is to witness the rich cultural displays of the people. I am from Anambra state, which is a predominately igbo speaking state located in the South- Eastern part of Nigeria. One thing the Igbo people have always taken pride in, is our colorful culture, which includes the Igbo masquerades.

    Igbo people call masquerade Mmanwu, which means spirit in Igbo language. Igbo masquerade has a history of its origin. It started off as traditional performances acted out by exclusive secret societies within a community. These exclusive societies consist of adult male members, whereas each member must be initiated in to the group. The main function of these societies is to celebrate the harvest and to entertain the village security guards. Some other functions of the masquerade included maintaining peace and order in the community by enforcing village curfews and providing security. The Masquerade wear masks which are worn for them to resemble spirits of the dead. By wearing a mask a masquerade is thought to have spiritual powers.
    The Igbo masquerade is a phenomenal dancer. One of the mysterious aspects of the masquerade is their ability to dance with so much energy for long periods of time. Watching an Igbo masquerade dance is one of the most interesting things anyone can see.

Popular Igbo Masquerades
Adamma is one of the most popular masquerades with a straight forward story line. Adamma is always presented in the form of a skit in which a young woman refuses to marry any of her suitors but finally gives in. The play also emphasizes feminine vanity, as she parades around with a very proud manner.
The skit is usually performed with the whole family, Adamma's mom (Nne), and her dad.

Ijele Masquerade
As my Mom described to me, Ijele is a very massive and exclusive masquerade that rarely comes out. The Ijele masquerade only comes out in rare special occasions, and when it does the whole village knows about it, and drops whatever they are doing to come out and watch it. The person behind the mask undergoes extensive training on how to properly carry the load of this masquerade.

This masquerade's name is Iga. His job is to maintain order.

Police Masquerade

Yes masquerades can be funny too. The police masquerade has no other job but to be comical. It just makes people laugh with the silly stick gun it carries around. It is kind of like a joke on the Nigerian police.

Enjoy some photos I took at a masquerade day in Neni, Anambra state.


  1. This is a very educating post on Igbo culture. I find it very interesting. More stuff like this please.

    1. I'm glad you were educated by it. I will be bringing a lot more in the future!


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