Masquerades are revered as superior beings in Igbo land. When a masquerade is seen in public, it is expected that they are treated with respect, as they are thought to represent both the spirit and human worlds.
There’s also a popular belief that the masquerades emerge from the ground, elevating them above man and thus deserving of respect.
Masquerading may necessitate a one-person team or a larger group, which may include vocalists who call the masquerades, drummers and instrument players, advisers, and finally, the masquerade itself. The majority of these masquerades wear masks and are completely covered from head to toe in clothing or bamboo rafters.
It varies depending on the type of masquerade and where it originates. Because the masquerade connotes beauty among other things, some of the masks are meant to be beautiful. The others, on the other hand, are ominous and are feared whenever they appear. Masquerades are seen in Igbo land during traditional celebrations, funerals, and festivals, especially the New Yam Festival.
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Every masquerade has distinct characteristics that set it apart and help to create a storyline or personality. It could be a war masquerade, a beautiful one, or an old one. They may also specialize in a variety of skills, including dancing, acrobatics, speaking, and a variety of others.
In Igbo land, you’ll find a variety of festive masquerades. Here are 5 masquerades in the Igbo Land:
Adamma is a modern maiden spirit mask worn by men that is unique to some villages in Nigeria’s south-eastern region. The ceremonial masquerade is named after Adamma, a name that loosely translates to “beautiful woman” and is traditionally given to a family’s first daughter. She is always stunningly dressed in vibrant outfits and dances so gracefully that most people wonder if the man behind the mask is actually a man.
The Ijele masquerade is the largest mask system in the history of the world masking tradition, and it originated in the Old Anambra state. Ijele is the King of All Masquerades, and forty-five different masquerades used to perform on top of it in the past. Currently, the figurines on top of Ijele represent these forty-five masquerades.
It is the culmination of all masquerades, and it is usually the last to perform. The Ijele is brought to many communities in South-East Nigeria to evoke fertility and a bountiful harvest. It also makes an appearance at special occasions such as weddings, funerals, and other celebrations.
This is a very stern masquerade with a lot of masculine features. They’re usually quick, aggressive, and agile, and they’re well-known in their own right. They’re also mostly worn by teenagers because they’re active masquerades, with two or more strong men constantly surrounding it with a rope tied around its waist to keep it from overacting.
The Izaga masquerade is the tallest Igbo masquerade, and it can be viewed as a comic or entertainment masquerade. They have the ability to grow shorter as well as taller. They appear during traditional ceremonies or festivals for the sole purpose of pleasing the onlookers.
The Odo is a masquerade unique to the Agbaja people of Enugu state (Ngwo and environs). In most cases, the Odo masquerade represents a deity who, according to belief and custom, allows the living to commune with their dead. The dead are said to work freely among the living during the Odo festival through the manifestation of this masquerade.
In Igbo land, there are plenty of other masquerades that serve a variety of purposes and functions. They are not allowed to abuse their powers, just as they are expected to be revered.