Masquerade Dance



Masquerade is a very interesting performance, usually carried out to entertain
people during festivities. It has ageless practice in most 
African communities
and enjoys, among other things, durability and continuity over time made
possible by family and communal inheritance of the art, craft, magic and
culture. It is generally believed that masquerades are spirits, springs
from the ground and that the spirits and ancestors of the
community are embodied in them.
  


Masquerade is played all over the world in various forms and in various occasions. Santa clues, Halloween, clowns, masquerade balls, as played in European and American countries,  are forms of masquerade where people disguise, wear masks and special costumes to perform and entertain people.  The Mathom (Limba Devil) and Ghongorli are some special masquerades played in Sierra Leone of Africa. The Elewe, Aja-dudu are some types of special Egungun [masquerade] played in Yoruba tribe of Nigeria.  Also, the Mbakara, Ajofia, Mgbada Ike, Ebule are some special Nmonwu [masquerade] played in Eastern Nigeria.




In Nigeria, as part of culture, Masquerades are mostly played during New yam festivals [Iri-ji], Burial ceremony of a greatman, chieftaincy coronation, and other special festivals. Also played in some parts in Easter and Christmas celebrations.  These masquerades come in various forms and sizes and for different occasions. There are ones played during the daytime and ones played only during the nights. All are generally explained to be spirits and are not humans.
The Night masquerades Ogbaagu, Icheoku [eastern Nigeria], culturally is played in a night following a new yam festival and during burial of a great man in the community. These masquerades require special membership initiation and are not to be seen by anybody that is not a member, especially the children and women. They are regarded as spirits and any non-member who sees it dies that same night. The Yorubas also have night masquerades, "Oro", also not seen by non-members. When "Oro" is played in the daytime women are told to stay indoors.
 







The day Masquerades[Ajofia, Mgbada ike, Ebule, etc] membership is also by initiation which is only for men in some communities while the non-members can only watch from far. They are mainly for entertainment to grace special occasions. In Enugu town [eastern Nigeria] Easter celebration is climaxed on Easter Monday by a display of masquerade dance from all parts of the town and neighbouring towns. On that day, different types and sizes of masquerades, big masquerade [oke nmonwu], and small masquerade come to display at Obiagu town where people will gather to watch. It is a day that people who bought new masquerades come to display them for people to watch. The day is always really enjoyable as masquerades of different forms, colour, sizes come to display in different dance steps and music.

One bad thing about Masquerade dance in Africa is that some men use it for evil. It is noticed that after the Masquerade display, people, especially the youths begin to die one after the other. It is said that the members engage in cultism and use juju [charm] when performing and that the groups try their powers on each other to see which is more powerful. That is the reason they begin to die after the performance. This has made some communities to stop masquerade performance during their festivities.



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