African masquerades for spirituality, protection and entertainment

This weekend, millions in the West celebrate the Irish Costumes Culture called Halloween; a historically spiritual event that is rapidly getting popular among young Africans by virtue of Hollywood movies, seemingly shrouding the already existing unique indigenous masquerade culture practiced in many African countries. Today, we bring to you, Costumes and Masquerade culture from West Africa among the Yorubas, mandingos, Igbos etc.

Mmanwu Masquerade: The Mmanwu is a traditional masquerade of the Igbo people of southeastern Nigeria. Like many African Masquerades, the Mmanwu serves multiple purposes such as performing elements of entertainment, ushering in new months and seasons, honoring ancestral spirits, community building among many others.

Egungun Masquerade: The Egungun Masquerade belongs to the Yoruba people of Nigeria and Benin Republic. It is an annual or biennial celebration that features colorful masked costumed figures believed to be the spirits of departed ancestors, or their human representation. The Egungun performs yearly festivals, weddings, celebration of new life and during funeral rites. It’s believed that the masquerade spirituality connects the ancestors with the livings, the past and the present. 

Kankurang Masquerade: This masquerade belongs to the Mandingo people of the Senegambia region. The Kankurang is masked with shredded red bark from a camel foot tree. The Kankurang usually walked with two cutlasses and he would hit them together as he wails and chants. Kankurangs usually appear during initiation ceremonies to guard the initiated boys who are transitioning to manhood. He protects the newly circumcised adolescence boys throughout their healing and initiation journey in a camp that could last up to 2 months. Similarly to the Mmanwu masquerade  of the Igbo tribe, the Kankurang also perform during other festivals in the community. Some Kankurangs move around alone while others move with group of young men as they sing songs of praises for the him.

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Akos: The Ankos masquerading festival is an annual festival celebrated by the people of Takoradi in the Western Region of Ghana. This grand event which attracts many tourists from around the world is held every December. What gives the Ankos its unique attraction is the beautiful display of indigenous culture and art. On the day of the festival, different groups of people throng the streets, parading as masquerades in colorful costumes whilst displaying beautiful dance moves to the admiration of the general public. Apart from the display of culture and art, Ankos help strengthen family and social bonds as natives who travel out of the region mostly return home to connect with relatives and also join the event.

Hunting Society: The hunting Society masquerade is celebrated by different tribes in Sierra Leone. It is believed that the Hunting has Nigerian origin and it was brought to Sierra Leone by the liberated Africans, who settled in the coastal city of the country, Freetown as early as 1807. The Hunting masquerade is masked with animal heads, plant materials and other colorful objects. 

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