Masking and masquerade traditions are aspects of culture that are practised in Nigeria and Africa at large. Specifically, the Ebira Chao of Igarra, Akoko-Edo Local Government Area, Edo state, South-South, Nigeria, have rich masking and masquerade traditions that are geared towards meeting the needs of the people. There is a need to fill the gap that borders on the masking and masquerade traditions of the Ebira Chao not being studied by previous researchers that carried out studies on the Ebira masking and masquerade traditions, and that, there are conflicting claims that border on whether the traditions are indigenous to the Ebira Chao or not. This study aimed at compiling historically, the changing traditions of the Ebira Chao masking and masquerade traditions. It was also structured to trace and document the origin of the Ebira Chao masking and masquerade traditions, classify and aesthetically describe the masks and masquerades, document objects that are associated with masking and masquerade traditions, and examine historically, the changing roles and functions of the different masking and masquerade traditions of the Ebira Chao. For the fact that, the traditions are gradually going into extinction, and have not been studied and documented to serve as evidence of history justifies this study. In line with the objectives, research questions were asked. This study is significant because it will serve as relevant material that can be used to educate and inform the Ebira Chao also known as Anetuno on the masking and masquerade traditions. The scope of the study is delimited to the masking and masquerade traditions of the Ebira Chao in Edo State. For the fact that there are masked and non-masked masquerades, this research is further delimited to the study of masked masquerades. Conceptual framework used for this study were drawn from the ideas of Babalola (1981), Ohiare (1988), Ki-Zerbo (1981) and Amankulor (1982). Some related literature were reviewed. Consequent upon the reviewed of literature, it was observed that, no discourse was made on the masking and masquerade traditions of the Ebira Chao. Qualitative method of research was used for the purpose of realizing the stated objectives. In line with that, purposive sampling technique was used to select respondents and Focus Group Discussion approach was used to tease out information from the eku custodians during fieldwork at Igarra in Edo State, while historical, descriptive and aesthetic approaches were used for data analysis. Sequel to this, the study has reconciled the age long conflicting claims that border on whether the masking and masquerade traditions are of the Ebira Chao origin by synthesizing the three different masking and masquerade historical accounts, and deduced that the masking and masquerade traditions are indigenous to the Ebira Chao. The study further classified the masks into anthropomorphic, zoomorphic and cloth-hood masks, based on their forms. Similarly, masquerades were classified into day and night masquerades, and were further typified as eku Okise, eku Echichi, eku Idowo and eku Ishebe. Some of the objects that are associated with the traditions are identified as uto (cowries), ekaruvo (strip of leather with a cowry that is worn on the upper arm), ametutu (a potted charmthat serves as spiritual antenna to masquerades), izenyi (cluster of small bell that are attached to a fabric that is worn by masquerades), ireha (cluster of small gong tied to a strip of fabric that is tied round the waist by masquerades), asise (feather), oreyi (mirror) and ochuku (bone) that are used for the purpose of fortifying and making masks and masquerades have the ideal nature of the Ebira Chao masks and masquerades. The study also examined and documented the functions and roles of the masking and masquerade traditions in terms of therapeutic, economic, prophetic and divination, all-round success, social and entertainment, and funeral functions, while the changing roles
include; political usage and youth participation among others. In a nut-shell, this study has holistically documented the Ebira Chao masking and masquerade traditions. Based on the field report, the following findings were made in line with the stated objectives: that, the masking and masquerade traditions of the Ebira Chao are indigenous to the people, masks are classified into anthropomorphic, zoomorphic and cloth-hood, while masquerades are classified into day and night masquerades, and are further typified into eku Idowo, eku Okise, eku Echichi and eku Ishebe. The masks and masquerades aesthetics are internal and external aesthetics, and that, objects that are associated with the masking and masquerading are to give the masks and masquerades ideal qualities of mask or masquerade based on the Ebira Chao considers as qualities of masks or masquerade. The functions of masking and masquerade traditions include therapeutic, economic, prophetic and divination, all-round success, social and entertainment, and funeral functions. Some of the changing roles were noted to be in terms of prophetic and divination, politics and youth intrusion into masking and masquerade traditions Some of the recommendations made are that, a committee that will comprise of all the clan heads should be constituted to check-mate the intrusion of politicians in masking and masquerade traditions of the Ebira Chao to avoid slander and clannish crisis. Scholars in the sciences should carry out scientific studies on how the spiritual potentials that are inherent in the masking and masquerade traditions of the Ebira Chao can be channeled towards technological advancement of the country (Nigeri
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction – – – – – – – – – -1
Background of the Study – – – – – – – -3
Statement of the Problem – – – – – – – -6
Aim and Objectives of the Study – – – – – – -7
Research Questions – – – – – – – – -7
Justification of the Study – – – – – – – -8
Significance of the Study – – – – – – – -10
Scope of the Study – – – – – – – – -11
Limitation of the Study – – – – – – – -11
Conceptual Framework – – – – – — – -12
REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
Origin and Location of the Ebira Chao – – – – – -14
Concept of Masks and Masquerades – – – – – – -16
Masking and masquerade Traditions of Varying Cultures – – – -18
Aesthetic Consideration in Masking and Masquerade Traditions – – -48
RESEARCH METHODOLOGY AND PROCEDURE
Research Design – – – – – – – – -54
Pilot Study – – – – – – – – – -55
Sources of Data – – – – – – – – -55
Methods of Data Collection – – – – – – – -56
Population and Sampling- – – – – – – – -56
Research Instruments – – – – – – – – -57
Methods of Data Analysis – – – – – – – -59
ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSIONS
Concept of Ancestral Worship and Origin of the Ebira Chao Masking and
Masquerade Traditions – – – – – – – -60
Types and Aesthetics Description of the Ebira Chao Masks – – – -66
Types and Aesthetics Description of the Ebira Chao Masquerades – – -77
General Aesthetics of the Ebira Chao Masking and Masquerade Traditions- -97
Objects Associated with Masking and Masquerade Traditions – – -100
Functions and Roles of the Ebira Chao Masking and Masquerade Traditions -108
Changing Functions and Roles of the Ebira Chao Masking and
Masquerade Traditions – – – – – – – -112
Findings – – – – – – – – – -114
SUMMARY, CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Summary – – – – – – – – – -118
Conclusion – – – – – – – – – -124
Recommendations – – – – – – – – -125
REFERENCES – – – – – – – – -126
APPENDIX I: Questionnaire for Focus Group Discussion – – – -131
APPENDIX II: Transcribed Focus Group Discussions – – – -134
APPENDIX III: Fieldwork Photographs of the Ebira Chao Masking and
Masquerade Traditions – – – – – – – -140
APPENDIX IV Publication – – – – – – – -152
Culture, the total way of life of a people, is either material or non-material. It is most times, seen as a means of identifying people. The culture of a people can manifest in the form of material culture, for instance, festival, clothing, architecture, arts and food, while the non-material culture includes the belief, language and philosophy of the people. Nigeria as a nation is made up of people, societies and civilization of different and unique cultures and traditions. Through some of their cultural practices, some societal needs are met. Hence, Bayo (2010) asserts that, some of the traditional Nigerian arts, in three dimensional form, are utilized in different areas, like; social, sacred and secular purposes. For instance, masks, and utilitarian objects which may be anthropomorphic representations of gods, are produced and used to meet socio-cultural needs of communities, amongst other purposes.
The survival of cultural practices over some centuries, have become traditions that were sustained by the people, by handing down statements, beliefs, rules, customs or the likes, by words of mouth and practice from generation to generation. Examples of such traditions is the masking and masquerade traditions that are practised in most villages and towns in Africa for some specific purposes, which vary from one society to another. In traditional African society, masking is the act of using a mask to cover or disguise the face. In addition to that, Lomel (1970) affirms that, masquerade is more than mere disguise, for it gives expression to the bond between a group of people and their ancestors, and that, it is an embodiment of a tradition and a guarantee of the continuity of an order hallowed by tradition.
In some communities in Africa, masks are worn by individuals that are chosen by the ancestors through divination before there can be spiritual manifestation of the ancestral powers to meet societal needs. To corroborate this statement, Willett (1971) discloses that, “chiwara mask with graceful curves of a hyena, produced by the Bambara of Mali was used for land fertility and to boost agricultural produce. Such mask with basket helmet was usually worn by the youth during agrarian festival”. In line with Willett (1971), Bayo (2010) asserts that, “kponiugo mask of the Senufo which is characterized with mouth like that of a warthog and the horn of a honey comb, is used to prevent soul stealers from operating in the community”. In other words, it serves as a guardian spirit. The author further states that, Dea mask attached to grasses is of the Baga, and was used to protect the soul of the dead. Among the Yoruba, “the gelede masquerade pays tribute to the special powers of women known as “the mothers” who are believed to possess a spiritual life force ase, which is equal to that of the deity orisa” (Drewal, 1974). Ase itself, is a neutral force that is either negative nor positive. On this note, the mothers can use their special powers for both negative and positive purposes. The negative purpose of the mothers is expressed with the term aje, meaning witch.
The destructive mothers are most often thought to be involved in matters of infertility, impotency and the death of children because they are constantly angry, easily irritated and jealous of those who are too happy. Bayo (2010) further narrates that “the mothers, in their positive aspect, are regarded as calm, creative and protective progenitors”. Similarly, among the Igbo, Aniakor (1982) describes the Igbo Ijele masquerade as an “elephant, the beautiful and expensive masquerade”, the biggest masquerade in Igbo land, and as a leading spirit (mwuo). The fact is that, the size of Ijele masquerade is outstanding when
compared with other available masquerades throughout Igbo land. This highly placed Ijele masquerade comes out for display during ofala festival which takes place once in every seven years. It may be noted that, the Ijele masquerade is one of the masquerades with a large mask, therefore, constituting the key element in its masquerading tradition.
Background of the Study
The Ebira are noted for their rich cultures and traditions in Nigeria and they occupy a land mass of about 150km around the confluence of the rivers Niger and Benue, in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. According to Ozigi (2004), “historically, Ebira speaking people belong to the Kwararafa or Apa group of people, of the middle belt region in Nigeria”. They are specifically found in Kogi, Nassarawa and Edo states, and in the Federal Capital Territory (Saliu, 2010). Muhammad (2005) and Saliu (2010) assert that, there are “Ebira Nya in Koton Karfi in Kogi State, Toto and Umaisha in Nassarawa State as well as Abaji in Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria, Ebira Tao in Okene, Kogi State and Ebira Chao in Igarra (Etuno), Edo State”. The communities referred to as the Ebira, are bounded together as one, because of their cultural affinity and dialectical relationship. Each of these groups, speaks similar dialect of the language, though, they occupy different locations as a result of states creation and boundary adjustments, in the Nigerian political map. One other reason about their dispersed settlements is their migration activities.
The Ebira settlements are scattered over the numerous hills and mountains, which dominate the landscape of the region, and most of the earliest village settlements were located on the hill-tops, which are in some cases, rocky and serve as a defense against enemies (Muhammad, 2005) and (Salami, 2011). They are hardworking farmers who craved for more fertile lands for their farming operations. Though, succession disputes, oppression,
famine and epidemics are some other reasons for their series of migration. When they sojourned at Idah, under Igala hegemony, they were neither Igala nor speaking Igala dialect. On migration from Idah, the Ebira Tao settled at Opete before spreading to other areas, while the Ebira Chao proceeded to their present location called Etuno (Igarra) in Akoko-Edo Local Government Area of Edo State, South-South, Nigeria.
The Ebira live in an organized society with a well structured traditional administrative system that was instituted by their ancestral fathers. For instance, in Ebira Tao group, the ancestral fathers who established the various settlements are: Okovi, Agada, Eika, Adavi, Ihima and Eganyi (Ozigi, 2004). Similarly, in Ebira Chao, the clans include: Anonyete (Ezi Igu), Eshimozoko, Eziobe (Eziakuta and Eziodu), Anona, Eshinavaka, Eshinogu (Eziogu), Eshinagada, Andiba, Andede and Anoseri (Muhammad, 2005). It is worthy of note that, the main clans are made up of opopo (sub-clans). According to Ozigi (2004), a clan can be described as a group of families descending from a common ancestor and who are closely or remotely related by blood. The clans are important in the socio-cultural and political life of the people. Clan consideration also plays an important part, in the appointment of a person(s) into certain position(s), land acquisition, contracting of marriages, to mention but a few. Though, in Ebira land, clannish sentiment or loyalty has been very strong, even up till now. Each clan has her own system or rules of selecting or choosing her leader, priest or chief. The method usually employed is that of gerontocracy (leadership by eldest). For the purpose of central leadership, Oshinoyi (paramount ruler) was appointed to oversee the general affairs of the society. Though, there have been some contentions on who should be the paramount ruler and who should not be.
Salami (2011) posits that, “every society of the world has certain characteristics which distinguish it from others”. Cultures may be similar, but are never quite the same. In the aspect of customs and traditions, the Ebira have areas of similarities and differences with other ethnic groups in the country. Prominent among the traditions of the Ebira is that of inheritance. Like in most other societies, inheritance is paternal. Male children inherit what their deceased father has left behind. In the past, the custom levirate involving the inheritance of wives (oyi ku oza ogu in Ebira Tao) or (oki ku oza ogu in Ebira Chao) by sons and brothers of a deceased man was widely practised. However, “the female children were not given much consideration, as they were regarded as outsiders, because they were going to be married into other families” (Muhammad, 2005 and Salami, 2011).
Traditional work-free day, which is observed once in a year, is observed by all. On such a day, no individual (indigene) is permitted to handle any working implement like; hoe and cutlass as a mark of honour to ancestors. Among the Ebira, different arts are practised. Example of this, is the decorative arts because of their quest for aesthetics. Some typical examples of their decorative arts include: cloth weaving, body, wall, pottery and mat decorations, wood carving and metal smithing (Saliu, 2010). The body decoration, uru and ukokori are popularly used.
Some other cultural festivals of the Ebira include; irepa, echetete, ubete, ekuechi and echeane. Though, there are other festivals in Ebira land, a mention of these festivals is because they are related to the masking and masquerade traditions. The celebrations of these festivals are characterized with masquerade outings and displays according to cultural dictates of the Ebira. The masking and masquerade traditions are forms of ancestral worship, and it refers not only to the masks, but also the masquerader, who inherited some
powers from the ancestors, who are in the world of the dead. Ebira people believe that, the spirit of the dead transmigrates to any person wearing the eku (masquerade) costume and guides his actions (Ibrahim, 1976). However, this study focuses on the masking and masquerade traditions of the Ebira Chao in Igarra, Akoko-Edo Local Government Area, Edo State, South-South, Nigeria.
Statement of the Problem
From time immemorial, the founding fathers of all the Ebira; Ohiku Ebira lived in an organized society that was characterised with well defined cultures and traditions, which were reflections of their lifestyles. To a great extent, they upheld the cultures and traditions jealously. Consequent upon this, they passed same practice from one generation to the other through oral tradition. Hence, a flow of undiluted transmitted pattern of life becomes imminent among the people (Muhammad, 2005). In present day, however, there are modifications and adultration in the cultural practices.
Sequel to that, there is a problem of historical origin of masking and masquerade traditions of the Ebira Chao because there are conflicting statements that borders on whether the traditions are indigenous or not. There is a need, therefore, to examine the historical survey of the Ebira Chao masking and masquerade traditions. It is also important to state here, that, there is a phenomenon of the rich traditions going into extinction as a result of some of the custodians of eku embracing Christianity and Islam. Consequent upon their acceptance of the new faith, some of the masks shrines, eku costumes and related materials or objects, have been burnt by some of the custodians. Also, previous researchers like; Suleiman (1994) and Ododo (2009) focused their research on the masking tradition of the Ebira Tao in Okene, Okehi and Adavi Local Government Areas of Kogi State, thereby creating a
vacuum that will not allow a holistic knowledge of the masking and masquerade traditions of the Ebira Chao. It is against this back-drop that this study was geared towards making a historical survey of the Ebira Chao masking and masquerade traditions which is an extraction of the Ebira ethnic group that has not been studied by previous researchers.
Aim and Objectives of the Study
The aim of this study is to compile historically, the changing nature of the Ebira Chao masking and masquerade traditions, while the objectives are to:
i. trace and document the origin of the Ebira Chao masking and masquerade traditions,
ii. classify the different masks and masquerades,
iii. make a descriptive analysis of the different masks and masquerades,
iv document other objects that are associated with the masking and masquerade
traditions, and their relevances.
v. examine historically, the changing roles and functions of the masking and masquerade traditions of the Ebira Chao.
The following research questions will lead to the realization of the stated objectives of the study:
i. What is the origin of the Ebira Chao masking and masquerade traditions?
ii. In what ways can the different masks and masquerades be classified?
iii. How can the different masks and masquerades be analysed ?
iv. What are the other objects that are associated with the masking and masquerade traditions and their relevance?
v. What are the historical changing roles and functions of the Ebira Chao masking and masquerade traditions?
Justification of the Study
According to Oloidi in Saliu (1994), “if the art and culture of the people is not studied, it will lead to cultural stasis”. Amongst the rich cultures and traditions of Ebira people are; cloth weaving, blacksmithing, wood-carving, decorative works, masking and masquerade traditions, to mention but a few. Ibrahim (1996) notes that,” the arts of the Ebira are to meet the needs of the people”. Studies have been done on Ebira cloth weaving and the decorative art of the Ebira by Saliu (1994) and (2000) respectively, while suleiman (1994) studied the Ebira masking tradition, related to Ebira Tao in Kogi State. From the foregoing, masking and masquerade traditions of the whole Ebira groups have not been completely studied or documented. The fact remains that, there exist some variations in the masking and masquerade traditions of the Ebira Tao and the Ebira Chao. The study of the masking and masquerade traditions of the Ebira Tao alone will not give a holistic knowledge of the Ebira masking and masquerade traditions. Therefore, it appears nothing has been done on the Ebira masking and masquerade traditions. More so, there are many conflicting stories about the masking and masquerade traditions of the Ebira Chao, in terms of the origin. Some of the indigenes claim it is alien, while some other people say it is indigenous. A study like this is designed to resolve such conflicting claims, thus, a justification.
Previous researchers who studied masking and masquerade traditions of the Ebira, focused their studies on those of the Ebira Tao in Kogi State, for instance, Suleiman (1994) who studied the masking traditions of the Ebira, narrowed his scope of study to masking tradition of the Ebira Tao. This study is therefore, geared towards making a study of the masks and masquerades of the Ebira Chao in Edo State in terms of their origin, form, contextual essence and aesthetics. It is worthy of note that, the potency of a masquerade lies in the enya resu (head load), to which the mask is attached because it bears some charms that are made to fortify the masquerade. This makes the mask an essential part of a masquerade, without which the masquerade is incomplete. This study therefore, soughts to fill that gap, by studying the masking and masquerade traditions of the Ebira Chao (Etuno) in Edo State before the traditions go into extinction, since the masking and masquerade traditions of the Ebira Nya (Kotonkarfi, Umaisha and Toto) in Kogi and Nassarawa states respectively, according to Ibrahim (1976), have gone into extinction, as they embraced the new faiths (Christianity and Islam). Based on preliminary findings, there is likelihood that, the same way, the Islamic and Christian factor has led to the extinction of the masking and masquerade traditions of the Ebira Nya, the masking and masquerade traditions of the Ebira Chao may also go into extinction as time progresses, if a study of this type is not done.
In line with the fore going, Ki-Zerbo (1981) purports that, there are inadequacy of the methodological approaches which have long been used in research on traditions in Africa. Hence, this study calls for a new and careful study of the two fold problem areas of historiography and cultural identity, which are united by links of reciprocity. Therefore, for any historical work of value to be realised, understanding of the cultural
history, paves the way for a great deal of further research on a variety of topics. The study the Ebira Chao masking and masquerade traditions is not an exception, as it is excised from previous studies made on the Ebira masking and masquerade traditions by previous researchers. It is important to note here that, by reason of the location of the Ebira Chao, her masking and masquerade traditions might have been influenced by the cultures of other neighbouring communities. Hence, the masking and masquerade traditions of the Ebira Chao is not holistically the same with that of Ebira Tao in terms of the aesthetics and significance of the masks and masquerades. It is for this reason, amongst others that, this study is justified.
Significance of the Study
This study is significant because modernity is gradually eroding valuable cultures and traditions in contemporary times. A case in point is masking and masquerade traditions of the Ebira Nya extraction of the Ebira ethnic group that has been jettisoned for the new faith (Christianity and Islam). Presently, this aspect of their rich cultures and traditions cannot be studied or documented because it has gone into extinction. To prevent a re-occurrence of extinction of masking and masquerade traditions and its effect, studying and documenting the masking and masquerade traditions of the Ebira Chao, serves as a means of preserving this aspect of the cultures and traditions of the people peradventure the traditions eventually go into extinction.
This study serves as evidence of history, perhaps, in time to come that, such tradition ever existed, and it also serves as a relevant material that can be used to educate and inform the Anetuno (people who speak etuno language) on the masking and masquerade traditions of the Ebira Chao. To buttress this statement, Roberts (1980) discloses that, written
documents and literature give understanding of the minds of human beings. The author added that, this study also filled the gap that has been left by previous researchers like; Suleiman(1994) and Ododo (2009) who focused their study on masks and masquerades of the Ebira Tao in Kogi State, as the masking amd masquerade traditions of the Ebira Chao in Edo State are studied. It is believed that, this study revealed some historical details on the origin, form, aesthetics and functions of the Ebira Chao masking and masquerade traditions. It further highlighted the aesthetic qualities and unravelled the mystical essence of the accessories to enable its readers to have visual appraisal of the Ebira Chao masks and masquerades. This document will also serve as reference point for future researchers who may wish to do a research on a similar area.
Scope of the Study
The Ebira, an ethnic group in Nigeria comprises of the Ebira Nya, Ebira Tao and the Ebira Chao, and are blessed with numerous indigenous cultures and traditions. Out of the many cultures and traditions, the masking and masquerade traditions appear to be the most popular, but which have hardly been studied. For this reason, the scope of this study focuses on the masking and masquerade traditions of the Ebira Chao in Edo State, South-South, Nigeria. For the fact, that, there are masked and non – masked masquerades, this research is delimited to the study of only the masked masquerades.
Limitation of the Study
Part of the limitations of the study is that, eku Idowo do-not appear on photograph. For this reason, a drawing of eku Idowo was done. Some of the eku okise have gone into extinction as a result of the death of the eku custodians. Hence, drawings were made and photographs were collected to support discussions.
Masking and masquerade traditions are of diverse nature, in both their forms and content, and to study them, requires putting into consideration relevant views of some scholars, which are necessary in forming a conceptual frame for analysis in this study. Egonwa (2012) asserts that conceptual frame work consists of conceptualizing the framework and stating the rationale for the perspective from which a researcher is examining a research problem.
Three concepts have been identified as relevant to this research. The first concept is derived from the views of Babalola (1981) and Ohiare (1988) which advocates that art should be studied within its cultural context. Therefore, studying masking and masquerade traditions must be done based on the cultural background of the society, where such traditions exist. To this end, this concept becomes relevant in making historical findings of the origin and developments of the masking and masquerade traditions of the Ebira Chao. Adequate visual documentation of the masks and masquerades was also achieved through the use of this concept. Ki-Zerbo (1981) further notes, that, there is need to avoid over-simplifications arising from a linear and restrictive conception of world history and to re-establish the true facts wherever necessary and possible by endeavouring to highlight historical data that gives a clearer picture of the evolution of the different peoples of Africa in their specific socio-cultural setting. Therefore, the researcher ensured that the historical study is done based on the understanding of the socio-cultural setting of the Ebira Chao and her masking and masquerade traditions.
The third conceptual frame work is drawn from the idea of Amankulor (1982), which says, African aesthetics is technically displayed on the African artifacts, verbalized by the
African in his evaluation of objects of aesthetic experience in terms of its peculiar preferences of its owner community. Therefore, the aesthetic of Ebira Chao masking and masquerade traditions was studied based on its cultural context.
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