Masquerades in Igboland, popularly known as mmanwu or mmụọ or mma, as the case maybe, are considered representations of the ancestors or the land. They are believed to come out of antholes. They are also believed to be spirits. They perform a wide range of roles and functions in Igboland from settling disputes to security to entertainment, and so on. In this post, we’ll be looking at the 15 most iconic and best Igbo masquerades: masquerade culture and tourism in Igboland.
The 15 masquerades to be listed here are to be selected based on their popularity, functions, and respect in Igboland. These masquerades are gotten from different regions of Igboland. In this post, we have explained and ranked them better.
15 Most Iconic and Best Igbo Masquerades: Masquerade Culture and Tourism in Igboland
1. Ijele Masquerade
Ijele is a special and most popular Igbo masquerade and the largest mask system ever to enter the history of the world masking tradition. Ijele has its origin from the northern part of Igbo land (Anambra and Enugu State, Nigeria). It is known as one of the biggest masquerades or mmanwu in Sub-Saharan Africa. Ijele was listed in the UNESCO Archives as an intangible cultural element in need of urgent safeguarding.
Ijele is large and has a very tall and large body. It is always considered as the king masquerade performer. Ijele hardly comes out to perform, but when it does, it is breath-taking, and it is usually the end of a general performance of all masquerades.
Izaga is a very tall masquerade that’s home to Northern Igbo as well, especially people of Enugu State. It can go up or come down depending on its performance. The height of Izaga is about 12 feet to 18 feet.
This is possibly the most popular masquerade among the Igbo, although it is not that iconic. It is commonly worn by the young people to entertain people. However, traditionally, in the past, it appeared during funeral of a titled man, and it was used as a means of security.
4. Ada mmụọ and O te nkwụ
These masquerades were introduced into the Igbo culture in the modern time but they have gone on to become iconic and popular among the Igbo. Originally from Enugu State, Ada mmụọ and O te nkwụ have gone on to be used in different areas of Igboland. Like husband and wife, their performance is appreciated and utilized during marriage or wedding ceremonies showcasing love, happiness, and marriage process.
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 chanting that accompanies the Agaba cut across ethnic dialects and cultures among the Igbos. However, this mmanwu is more popular among the Igbo in Anambra State.
Omabe is a cross section of masquerades or mma popular among the Igbos in the Nsukka area. Due to how close or tight the people of the area are to their customs and traditions, Omabe has continued to be popular and iconic, gaining more popularity among other Igbo communities. Omabe is a mixture of masquerades which come out or perform during the Omabe Festival and period.
Ulaga is a popular Igbo masquerade although not often seen as the ulaga masquerade comes out occasionally mostly during funerals of titled men to pay its last respect or during any event organised in honours or in acknowledgement of someone’s importance in a community.
These are also a group of masquerades perculiar to Nsukka area of Enugu State. For these ones, they are a wide range of masquerades or mma that perform during the Odo festival. They also act as form of security, reconciliation, and cultural identity. Odo masquerades also give the living the chance to commune with the dead and their ancestors as ancestors are believed to roam the communities during Odo festival and appearance.
The Ekpe masquerade is popular among the Igbo of Abia State, Enugu state and Ebonyi State. Most Ekpe masquerade are used to enforce law in the community and its said to be the link to their ancestors.
9. Mmanwu Ugo
Mmanwu Ugo, Eagle masquerade is an entertainment masquerade popular among the people of Anambra. These assume the appearance of the creatures that they have their names attached. And during their display, they do things that are peculiar to those creatures.
This masquerade showcases builty, culture, and resilience. It belongs to the Imo State people.
The Ekpo masquerade acts as a police man who enforces the laws of the land especially the laws of the Ekpo. The Ekpo masquerade is popular among the Igbo of Abia state especially those within Arochukwu.
This is a very powerful mmanwu that’s usually followed by its spiritually strong followers. It is not for entertainment as such, and it rarely appears. However, it is a beautiful sight to behold when it appears as it is thrilling and the same time scary.
Odogwu is the modern and youthful version of Agaba. It has the face of a strong and determined man who can defeat or overcome any circumstances and challenges. This masquerade was introduced in the recent times but has gone on to be one of the popular and most iconic Igbo masquerades.
This masquerade is popular among the Anambra people, and it is one of their ancient masquerades. Just like Agaba and other masquerades steeped in ancient traditions, it rarely comes out as such but on appearance, it is very iconic and popular.
The Ebu masquerades usually come out of a box, the masquerade have the ability to fold itself like a paper, grow very tall and also make itself short.
15 Most Iconic and Best Igbo Masquerades: “Masquerade Culture and Tourism in Igboland”
Masquerade culture should be kept, preserved, and promoted by the present Igbo people as this is a great blessing for the people. This is because it can serve as a means of developing tourism for the Igbo States. The Igbo States can do a massive PR and publicity regarding State-sponsored masquerade festival where these masquerades perform.
It can be like a week-long events with other events connected to it as well. When it becomes popular, it will lead to a massive income and tourism for the Igbo States. In the 90s, Princess Diana visited Enugu and enjoyed a masquerade festival as she was thoroughly entertained.
Utilizing this masquerade system and culture, the Igbo States can unlock a couple of million dollars sectors.
This is it on 15 most Iconic and best Igbo masquerades: masquerade culture and tourism in Igboland.