One of the viral videos that surfaced on the internet this week is that of a masquerade who was seen asking out a lady; he got her Whatsapp number and then made sure it is a correct phone number.
There was a viral video of masquerade who bought ‘fan milk’ on the road and another who was tortured by a soldier despite the fact that they are said to be spirits/gods.
It is therefore important to state categorically if masquerades are really spirit or it is just another form of scam in our society.
Masquerades in Nigerian Culture
Masquerades are important part of the Nigerian peoples’ culture. They are very popular in the Western and Easten parts of the country as they play important roles in the peoples’ rich culture and tradition.
Masquerades are seen during festivals and other cultural events. They add glamour to events through their attires, drumming, and dancing while some forms of masquerades are seen as gods as they give messages, warnings and blessings to spectators.
Yoruba people of Southwest Nigeria refer to masquerades as ‘Egungun’ or ‘Egun’. The people’s belief is that these masked-beings are spirit or messengers of god. They are believed to spiritually cleanse the community; through the dramatic acting and miming of robed priests, they demonstrate both ethical and amoral behavior that showed they are not just human beings.
They also expense the strengths and weaknesses of the community to encourage their behavior more befitting of their descendants. Masquerades from this part of the world don’t communicate in ordinary terms as they have their own lingua.
There are masquerades who strikes fear into people by their stripes and have people following them as a group. There are families that are customed to take part in their rites and they have festivals which is celebrated annually.
Some of these masquerades include Oloolu, Alapansanpa, Onibobo, Eyo, and many others. They are seen as a special being that cannot be touched.
The Igbo people of Eastern Nigeria also see masquerades which are referred to as ‘Egwugwu’ or ‘Mmanwu’ as important part of the peoples’ culture and tradition. They are seen during festivals, annual festivities, burial rites and other social gatherings.
Dressed in their colorful robes and masks made of wood or fabric, ‘Mmanwu’ are associated with spiritual elements, as according to Igbo belief, they represent images of deities or sometimes even dead relatives. Their identity is a well-kept secret and performed exclusively by men even though women are not left out as they sing and dance.
Masquerades were regarded as the means for maintaining peace and order and were primarily used as law enforcement agents in the past in Igbo land.
The entertain through dances and exhibits extra human feats. They would walk up to certain individuals and loudly expose any bad habits, crimes or misbehavior of that person.
This help people to make corrections as well as make the masquerades effective in keeping up with traditional norms and values in the communities. Some of these masquerades include ‘Odo’, ‘Ijele’, ‘Adanma’ and several others.
What Has Changed in Masquerades?
It has been argued that civilization has changed our belief system and has affected our rich culture and tradition.
Masquerades are not left out as their roles have continue to diminish in the society. They are no longer seen as spirit or god’s messenger as it used to be. It is safe to say they have lost connectivity with their ancestors as some no longer perform the functions they are known for.
Some have used the masquerade robe as a means to threaten and dupe others which have made them irrelevant in some parts of the country.
Masquerades that are known to wield both spiritual and administrative power are now seen on the road; gasping for breath and feeling the heat with ‘strawberry drink’ as a life saver.
They have also felt human pain as a soldier was seen beating the hell out of one that go beyond his boundary.
What then can we say about another that was struck by love at ‘first sight’ and then inquired for a lady’s Whatsapp number while his followers waited to see if their ‘ancestor’ would be turned down?
Do you still think masquerades are spirits/gods or they are just another scam in the Nigerian society?
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