IT IS an open secret that our society is bedeviled in identity crisis. In our pursuit of a better life, we are losing the very core of our existence. This very core of our existence is in shambles and as such, every aspect of our lives is imploding. We as a people have alienated from the values and identity that sum us as Igbo.
Human relations have gone sour and unimaginable as we struggle to outclass one another fiercely even if it takes its toll on our lives. In this season of grave moral decadence, brutish lifestyles and erosion of goodwill, truly, elders are home as the goat birthed in the tether.
These societal flaws won’t have found their way into our daily activities had we maintained and preserved our local values in our quest for foreign lifestyles acclimatisation. In the process of these new found lifestyles, we lost ideas, cultures and teachings handed down to us by our forebears. Today, couples rarely drink the palm wine offered during marriage rites; many do not know the intricacies and wordings accompanying breaking of kola. Speaking Igbo in some quarters is seen as an aberration of the new order which could be caused by being uneducated.
Across various towns of Igbo nation, there are scores of crimes perpetuated by man against his fellow; murder, rape, corruption amongst others. On the other hand, sacrilegious vices against Ala are committed ceaselessly. Today, we eat pizza, spaghetti and celebrate Halloween while we refer to ours as rickety pot which the owner has refused to associate with.
We have gradually relegated our traditions and culture to the backdrop while totally referring to our totems and masquerades as evil. This gradual alienation has left history and identity struggling as the general wellbeing of our society and her development.
Since inception circa 2017, Centre for Memories (CFM) have identified these gaps and through a league of conscious activities, including exhibitions has continued to bring people closer to history while ensuring we have something to pass onto the next generation.
In the process of bridging these gaps, CFM teamed up with the young artist, Chuma Anagbado in a month-long solo art exhibition on Mmuo: Igbo Masquerading, Spirituality, Performance and Visual Resonance. This exhibition will run from 14th August, till 14th September, 2021. The exhibition aims to revive and preserve Igbo arts and knowledge system (CFM).
A preview of the art pieces in the exhibition at the main bowl of the Centre for Memories located #2 Awgu Street, Independence Layout, Enugu, leaves one marveled at the mystery, character and uniqueness of each masquerade. The exhibition exposes the roles of masquerades, the spirituality accorded to them and their performance.
In time past, masquerades served as purveyors of social change, maintenance of societal balance and order, enforcers of laws, values and justice.Other times, masquerades served as intermediaries between the living and the spirits. Masquerades in totality, portend Igbo culture, history, lifestyles and civilisation.
Anagbado’s arts portray masquerades in Igboland into two major variants; the higher masquerade (nnukwu mmuo) and the lower masquerade (obele mmuo). There are other peculiar characteristics/division of masquerades which could be as a result of the time/period they appear. Some of the masquerade displayed at the exhibition include Ijele – the largest masquerade in Igboland, Ogbun’ikenga – the acrobatic masquerade that carries the strength of the community, Akwunechenyi –described as the fierce friend in need and indeed, Anwuruonwu–the masquerade patriarch (nna mmonwu), Ogwulugwu – the elegant and entertaining first daughter of the mmuo family, Ogidi Mgbadike – the head composition of Mgbadike, Ikpuru – The law and order enforcer adorning a cat fur costume. Also in display is the display of Ikenga (the strength of a man, family), Awolo – the Masquerade’s multipurpose waist band and other accompanying musical instruments – Ichaka, Udu, Ogene and Ngelenge (xylophone). Although the artist drew his inspiration of the masquerades and their names from his hometown – Adazi, there are resemblances of the masquerades across towns in Igboland with variations basically on the nomenclature.
Hopefully, the exhibition will augur a new chapter where we would document and tell our stories while wearing our identity boldly for the world to see.
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