METAPHOR AND THE IGBO MASQUERADE: THE EZEAGỤ EXAMPLE (
Recently, there is a strong awareness that has been created in the study of African culture, including that of the Igbo. In Ezeagụ, the concept of masquerade is based on the concept of interaction between the living and the dead. In fact, to a good number of people in Ezeagụ Culture Area, the masquerade means a lot of things. The masquerade is metaphorically used in Ezeagụ. That is why every male in the culture area is addressed as masquerade. This work looks at the metaphoric aspects of the masquerade using Ezeagụ as an example. In Ezeagụ, the masquerade is a communal symbol because masquerade performances are taken very seriously by the people. When its performance is successful, the people feel proud and fulfilled, for success is an index of the solidarity and moral health of its people. The masquerade is metaphorical in Ezeagụ when we look at it from the perspectives of physical human attributes, entertainment, and in its behavioural patterns. The masquerade performs a lot of social, religious and security function in Ezeagụ Therefore, we can look at the masquerade and everything about it as a human. It also metaphorically performs spiritual functions and that is why the masquerade is said to be a spirit in the area. But finally, the masquerade in Ezeag ụ culture area is neither human nor spirit. The masquerade is metaphor in Ezeagụ.
1.1 Background to the Study
In Igboland in general and Ezeagụ culture area in particular, the concept of masquerade is based on the concept of interaction between the living and the dead. This concept, has in no small measure, helped the traditional Igbo society to evolve a device for social control in its different communities.
However, what is involved in the masquerade has been grouped into three elements – the supernatural, the display and the mimetic elements. It is a fact, that the presence of a masquerade or a masked figure in a community is a display of some sort, with hypnotic effects, as it attracts attention and draws crowds. But this, in fact, must not be taken as the raison d’etre of the masquerade. It is important also to note the religious and supernatural airs and mysticism surrounding the mask. This is evident in the way it is respected and the feats that it is often believed to be capable of achieving.
In fact, to a good number of people, the masquerade means a lot of things. Some see the masquerade as an agent of social control, while others see it as the appearance of the dead among the living. There are still others who see the masquerade as mere entertainment that appears and performs during festival or ceremonies. In some other cases, it is seen as an identity of a particular group of people.
Again, a lot of people agree that the masquerade can compel people to perform certain acts; it has been used to adjudicate some civil cases, to guard properties against some intruders and other things of similar nature. A lot of other things have been written about the masquerade as theatre. Some believe that the masquerade is a cult, while others see it as spirit manifest.
However, this study tries to investigate the masquerade as a metaphor, in Ezeagụ cultural area.