The Mmanwu festival of the Igbo people: a rich celebration of masquerades

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celebration of masquerades

One of the blessed tribes in Nigeria is the Igbo tribe, situated in the South-Eastern geo-political zone of Nigeria. They have respect, love, and affection for their culture and traditions. With a number of influential people, the Igbo indigenes are trained to work hard and can survive any climate or hardship. The Mmanwu festival is a culture Igbos have preserved from antiquity.


The Festival

The elegance, prestige, respect, and beauty given to the Mmanwu festival, is something that can’t be overlooked. It is enticing or rather appealing for the eyes to behold. The states observing this festival are Imo, Abia, Ebonyi Anambra, and Enugu.

Each of these states listed above has Mmanwu festivals that are peculiar to them. ‘Mmanwu’ to them means “Masquerade”. In other words, the Mmanwu festival literally means a celebration of masquerades. According to them, the masquerades are seen as the ‘reincarnation of the spirit of the dead’. This implies that the spirit of the dead is said to be manifesting or invoked in a masquerade.



The said Masquerades vary in sizes and shapes. Each of them depicting their dead ancestor or kindred. On the festival day, all the masquerades will gather in the village square or designated location to entertain people. The mask is being worn exclusively by the initiates of the masquerade cult.

Some of the masquerades that come out that day are utterly destructive or aggressive in nature. It’s believed that some of them are charmed or overtaken by the spirit, and obviously some people fear getting close to them- because of some of their diabolic powers, so the audience are encouraged to be cautious of this truism. Some of them possess whips.

As stated earlier, the masquerades vary in size and shape. Here are the types of masquerades which are Ojionu ( Water Spirit masquerade); Agaba Mkpamkpanu; Enyi Mmanwu ( elephant); Mmanwu Ugo ( Eagle); Mmanwu Ube ( tortoise); and Ijele (Outstanding) due to its resplendent attire, stature, and elegance.

According to their laws, it’s extremely taboo for women and non-indigenes to witness the clothing of the masquerades. The best and most recommended time to witness the Mmanwu festival of Igbo nation is during the festive seasons when the sons and daughters of the tribe return home from their base in different parts of the world.

Africh Royale

Africh Royale

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