Ajofia Nnewi: An Old Ancestral Spirit

Ajofia Nnewi: An Old Ancestral Spirit

Traditional Igbo masquerades, or mmanwu, are elaborate costumes worn by males originally as a representation of the spirits of the dead. They could be made to look like human beings or animals, or some other abstract creature depending on the driving spirit behind the masquerade. This driving spirit also determines the nature of each masquerade, with respect to its form, its role, its gait, whether it’s a dancing mask or not, and its dancing style if it has any. It is generally believed that masquerades are carried with powerful charms with which they protect themselves from other masquerades, or for spiritual attack. According to region, a masquerade may be owned by am individual native doctor, or by a community, or by an association, but in many places the masquerade group is a secret organisation that transcends village and town borders. This group requires special initiation rites before one can be a member, and is referred to as ‘ima mmanwu’. Women don’t wear...
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