Masquerades From The Igbo Land
Adiro akwu ofu ebe enene nmanwu (One does not stand on one spot to watch a masquerade)
Description and Significance: In Igbo culture, the masquerade embodies the spirit and human worlds. The mystique surrounding the masquerade is one the key components of the Igbo culture that survived Western influences It is generally believed in the Igboland that the masquerade is a spirit which springs from the soil. Depending on your point of view, it may be true or only a myth. The masquerades are classified into categories based on specialization. Each masquerade possesses particular attributes (warrior-like prowess, mystical powers, youthfulness, and old age) and specializes in one or more skills (dancing skills, acrobatics, and other ritual manifestations).
Masquerading may involve one person team or a team made up of instrument players, vocalists, dancers, masquerade advisers, and the masquerade itself. Most masquerades are covered from head to toe with some piece of clothing or/and bamboo rafters. Finally, a wooden mask is worn over the face. The mask will vary depending on the type of masquerade and the place of origin within the Igboland. Some masks are designed to be beautiful, intimidating or downright sinister. Most masquerades claim to have some mystical powers and are constantly competing to see which one has the most mystical powers, whenever they appear together especially at village squares or funerals.
The masquerade appears during traditional celebrations (funerals) and festivals (new yam festival). The level of apprehension and the noise that await the appearance of a masquerade, will vary, depending on the type of the masquerade, and the size and make-up of the audience.
The Umunna Men's Cultural Masquerade Group performs three different masquerades acts. They are; Ojionu, Agaba, and Odogwu.
The OJIONU Masquerade is a water spirit character represented by a headdress of crocodiles, sharks and other predatory water creatures. The major attribute of OJIONU is creative non-stop dancing.
Versions of the Ojionu masquerade varies from those that perform voices only and possess superior mystical powers to those that dance predominantly with minimal voices and less mystical powers.
The ODOGWU Masquerade is a youthful and aggressive character represented by a mask that insinuates "Bloodshot eyed rebel".
Its major attribute is demonstration of youthfulness with specialty in intimidation. The Odogwu is also known for the highly charged chanting that accompany its rhythms.
The AGABA masquerade as a character is that of a warrior represented in its name that literally connotes "lets go". The Agaba major attribute is warrior-like prowess, which specializes, in ritual manifestations.
The ease in the mobility of the Agaba instruments (can play with the OGENEs only) makes it a popular masquerade for the youths residing in major cities of the Igboland. The chanting that accompanies the Agaba cut across ethnic dialects and cultures among the Igbos.
We live and enjoy our culture ... from the men's masquerade groups to the instruments we use. Not forgetting our women's cultural groups. We stay grounded in the culture we are so proud of. Listed below are some web links to get you involved.