Video: Ancestral Masquerades in the Benue River Valley

Boundary Crossing: The Circulation of Masquerades

Whether to incarnate ancestors, enforce social codes, support royal and chiefly authority, celebrate warriors, or to entertain, masquerades were performed throughout the Lower Benue. The circumstances of war, migration, and resettlement since the nineteenth century have meant that masks were and continue to be highly mobile. They could be taken as war booty, bought and sold, adopted with or without accompanying rituals, and altered to suit aesthetic or social requirements of a new community. Reinterpreted by new owners, their meanings changed in response to different contexts and needs.

As cultural boundary crossers, masquerade traditions also retain some traces of where they have been. Their names, origin stories, accompanying musical instrumentation, idiosyncratic dance steps, or special adornments are all clues to their historical paths. The influence of Igbo, Ibibio, Boki, and other Cross River peoples can be seen especially in Idoma masquerades, particularly the whiteface mask so recognizable in southeastern Nigeria. 

16 minutes 13 seconds

Ekwula masquerade

Idoma peoples
Igumale town
Documented by Sidney Littlefield Kasfir, 1989
Super-8 film; 31 seconds



Egwu Afia masquerade

Igala peoples
Abocho town
Documented by Olobo-Ojo and His Royal Highness, the Onu Abocho (Ayidu), Alhaji Tijani Okutachi, 2010
Video; 1 minute, 51 seconds


Akwujane masquerade
Igala peoples
Onyedega town
Documented by Constanze Weise, 2010
Video; 2 minutes, 20 seconds



Aja masquerade
Okpella peoples
Ogute town
Documented by Jean Borgatti, 2003
Video; 3 minutes, 30 seconds



Omeshe masquerade
Okpella peoples
Afokpella town
Documented by Jean Borgatti, 2003
Video; 1 minute, 50 seconds



Alabala Omo Egungun masquerade
Awori-Yoruba peoples
Ota town
Documented by John Thabiti Willis, 2004
Video; 36 seconds



Ndako Gboya masquerade
Nupe peoples
Kusogi village
Documented by Constanze Weise, 2000
Video; 4 minutes, 42 seconds 



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