Masquerades are similar to Halloween in other countries in terms of facial features and other practices. Masquerades are common in some Nigerian communities during festivals and important days such as coronations. They add joy and glitz to events because some of them are dancers or showboaters.
Some people serve as God’s messengers, delivering a message to the people. They chant in an occult language only occultists understand. Some people wield canes and have the ability to frighten and even flog onlookers. Most children hide because they can’t stand how these things appear. Whatever one’s feelings about masquerades, they are an important part of African culture. In this article, I’d like to highlight various masquerades and explain why they’re important to the communities they serve.
For many generations, the Omabe masquerade ritual has been a part of Nigeria’s Enugu State’s cultural environment. Masked dancers portraying various spirits are frequently seen at cultural or religious masquerades. Omabe impersonators are thought to be reincarnations of Nsukka’s forefathers. Annual customary celebrations honor these ancestors in the area. These celebrations include Onwa Asa (the seventh moon), Onwa Eto (the third moon), and Onunu. Throughout the year, the timing of celebrations varies among Nsukka communities. It is said that during these festivals, the revered ancestors appear from ant holes dressed as various types of Omabe masquerades.
These masquerades, particularly the Oriokpa (Omabe’s traditional police), linger among the residents of Nsukka for varying lengths of time. They are thought to be watching how the populace conducts itself.
Adamu Orisa Play, also known as Eyo masquerade and frequently performed on the streets of Lagos Island, Eko, is the most revered and significant festival in Eyo Lagos. It is led by five groups of Orisas (deities). The Eyo masquerade is the only one that takes place on Lagos Island. It is thought to represent the spirits of the ancestors. Every morning, each Eyo departs from the reigning family’s Iga (palace) and travels to the temple (Agodo). It is completely cloaked in a flowing white robe. The upper robe, known as the “agbada,” and the lower robe, known as the “aropale,” are both parts of the flowing white garment. No part of the person carrying the Eyo is expected to be visible.
The Eyo also wears “Akete” headgear with the colors of the Iga flag and shield. An Eyo may tie ribbons in the colors of his Iga to the Opambata (palm branch) he is carrying. An Iga’s Eyo can have up to 100 members. Every Eyo who wears a robe must pay a fee for the privilege.
Throughout the dry season, the Ijele masquerade performance celebrates a bountiful harvest in various communities in the state of Anambra in south-eastern Nigeria during festivities, burials, and other important occasions. Before a performance, it takes a hundred men six months to prepare the costume and build an outdoor building to accommodate the four-meter-tall mask. The Ijele is made of colorful cloth on a bamboo pole frame, divided into upper and lower sections, and embellished with figurines and representations of all aspects of life. The tall, masked figure dances at the end of other masquerades, guarded by six “police” and wielding a mirror that can both attract and punish evildoers.
Ijele mask carriers are chosen by ballot and must live in seclusion for three months while following a strict diet in order to gain the strength needed to wear the mask. The masquerade serves several important functions in the community, including spiritually marking joyful and solemn occasions, politically affirming allegiance to a chief or king, and culturally entertaining the general public as young boys and girls sing and dance to the rhythms of Akunechenyi music.
The most recognizable aspect of the Ekpe cult art form is the masquerade, which is typically made of red and black but can occasionally be found in other colors. Large round glituans worn at the top of the body to resemble a lion’s mane, as well as smaller versions worn around the ankles and wrists known as “mkpat etim” and “Itong Ubok Etim,” are featured. The masquerader is holding a bundle of oboti leaves in his left hand and a long stick in his right. Beyond spiritual authority and leadership authority taken separately, it is impossible to determine what the two represent in their entirety.
However, it was previously believed that if the Ekpe struck someone with the leaves, it represented casting away the evil from the person. On the other hand, if the Ekpe struck the victim with the staff, it would be fatal.
Despite its length, the list does not include all masquerades that are culturally connected to specific communities. Masquerades are an important part of Nigerian culture, despite the fact that they are commonly thought to be cultural or religious celebrations with masked dancers representing various spirits.