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An Ojiọnụ Masquerade

An Ojiọnụ Masquerade

MASQUERADES IN IGBO LAND (1)

Mask
As a step to the explanation of the full meaning of masquerades, here is a working definition of mask.
‘A mask is a covering for part or all of the face, worn to hide or protect it…’, ‘something that covers your face and has another face painted on it”. (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary Ed. Sally Wehmeier, Oxford University press, 2000)

Further from make up or outward covering, some people define mask as the condition of covering one’s appearance, true feelings, a person’s real nature.

Although the word masquerade does not as such seem to be derived from the word mask, but irregular to it in nature, but has a similar or even the same meaning. The same dictionary defines masquerade as “a type of party where people wear special COSTUMES and MASKS OVER their faces, to hide their identities.” In the definition, we see mask as a thing that is worn on the face. In the definition of masquerade, we see masquerade as a group of people, or a party where different masks are worn, of course worn differently by the different people. But generally speaking, masquerades have come to be identified as false identity, whether of a person or a group of persons or a party, or any thing that people have come to “mask” themselves with so as to deceive people with it.

The idea of mask is global, and the idea of masquerade is universal to some extent too. This means that apart from the figurative meaning of the word, the idea of the masked figure is what is common among many people and amongst many cultures of the world. Every culture makes do with masquerades; and every culture has its own ways of masking and masquerading. Some of the places of the globe where masquerades and masquerading is obtained include places like China and some other places like Mexico and Brazil in Latin America, Italy and some other countries especially in Far East and Africa.

In our own part of Africa, Nigeria and precisely Igbo land, masquerades are meant for celebrities and entertainments among other things, depending on how the people use and treasure it.

Like people of other cultures, for the Igbo people, the first main function of the masquerade is entertainment . This accounts for why masquerades appear in various sizes and shapes. The entertaining masquerades are also made in the likeness of animals and birds. And consequently, each masquerade moves like whatever figure and form it is made to be like. (Thanks to the ingenuity of the artists).

Entertaining masquerades are normally launched when the people that are inventing the masquerades decided, worked for it, inform the people and so commission it. And from the day of the great commissioning, the masquerade continues to be relevant to the community. The four great roles of masquerades in Igbo land are:

1. ENTERTAINMENT
2. ENFORCEMENT OF LAW AND ORDER
3. ENFORCEMENT OF DISCIPLINE AND MORALITY
4. THE ROLE OF COMMUNITY POLICING.

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