Mmanwu is a traditional masquerade of the Igbo people of Southeastern Nigeria. They are performed only by males in exclusive secret societies and involve the use of elaborate, colorful costumes that are meant to invoke ancestral spirits.
Women are prohibited from touching the masks or even understanding the spiritual meaning behind the mask. Women are able to observe the ceremony and many do so, but they are careful to keep their distance. Both genders work to maintain the secrecy surrounding the ceremony, as it is forbidden to share the process outside of the mask-making societies.
Culture and Traditions
Igbo originated in an area about 100 miles north of their current location at the confluence of the Niger and Benue Rivers. They share linguistic ties with their neighbors the Bini, Igala, Yoruba, and Idoma, with the split between them probably occurring between five and six thousand years ago. The first Igbo in the region may have moved onto the Awka-Orlu plateau between four and five thousand years ago, before the emergence of sedentary agricultural practices. As this early group expanded, so too did the Igbo kingdom. The earliest surviving Igbo art forms are from the 10th century.
Dan Winberg donated in the year 2002.
Date of Digitization
J. B . Coleman Library
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Prairie View A&M University, "IGBO (KWA) Culture Of Arts in Nigeria - (Cult Dance)" (2002). African Sculptures and Masks. 1.