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Ibo Masks
Things Fall Apart
Chinua Achebe
Purpose for Masks
Agricultural Festivals and
Initiations into Adulthood (e.g.
a male or female who has
reached the age of marriage)
“Runners” (e.g. fire in the
(Ceremonial/Initiation Ibo mask: Articulated jaws
reveal the power to speak and reveal the
name of wrongdoers. Legend says that this
mask is so powerful that when it cried, the
tears burned into the skin, leaving furrows
extending from the tear ducts.)
Ibo Mask Worn for the Yam Festival
Wearers of the Mask
More than a facial or head
covering, wearers of the
various masks “ceased to
exist”. They embraced the
spirit of the mask and
brought it to life.
(Spirit Mask: “Okoroshi Oma” or Female Water Spirit)
Each year during the peak of the rainy season, Ibo villages in the
southwestern region would stop everyday activities for one
month. The season, dedicated to Owu, served as a time when
water spirits descended to earth from their homes in the clouds
in order to dwell and cavort among human beings. Many male
and female masqueraders of this mask would dance, strut, and
flog people in the villages during this month—hence the
cessation of ordinary life.
Distinctive Features of the Ibo Mask
Symbols (Often placed on
the forehead and cheeks)
Shape and Sizing of facial
features (e.g. wide, open
mouth; exaggerated size
of ears)
Keloids (tribal scar marks)
Placement of the keloids
determined region (e.g.
raised vertical scar marks
down the center of the
forehead), social rank, or
distinctions of beauty
Distinctive Features (Cont’d)
Puni Mask (South West Gabon)
This okuyi mask represents an
idealized female face. Arched
eyebrows carved in low relief,
narrow eye slits between
convex lids, a short finely
formed nose and closed mouth
pursed in a “figure eight”
characterize the sensitively
modeled face, whose
harmonious features exude
Ibo Maiden Spirit Mask
Agbogho Mmuo Masks
Maiden Mask used in dances to celebrate the
beginning of the dry season or at a funeral.
Distinctive Features (Cont’d)
 Differentiations between positive
and negative characteristics (Black
and White)
 White = world of spirits
(death), purity, beneficence,
 Black = horrific, fierce, and
masculine characteristics.
 Duality of colors (BOTH
black and white) =
representation of
masqueraded characters
existing between the ‘spirit
world’ and the ‘real world’.
Often seen as comical
Materials used in the Production of Ibo Masks
Grass or straw
Fabric or cloth
String or twine