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Baule, Yaure, Attie,
Democratic Republic of Congo
wood and pigments, 22" (55.8 cm)
42. Igbo Elephant spirit mask, Nigeria, wood and pigments, 22" (55.8 cm)|
Commonly danced in northeast Igboland, the Ogbodo Enyi, or elephant spirit mask, has a complex battery of social functions. The mask is related to age/grade societies among the male Igbo, and is one of the few masquerades that can include both elderly men and young boys. It is primarily used during dry season festivals where a village is purified by an elder and then physically cleaned up by young adults and children.
Even the youngest of the age/grade groups (uncircumcised youths) put on an Ogbodo Enyi masquerade. It is expensive to commission the mask and costume, and the success of the performance attests to the capacity of the members of the age/grade group to work together for common social aims. Leaders of the group are chosen and maskers are decided upon, though it is believes that the mask chooses its own dancer. Dancers must be strong as the dance is quite vigorous and can last between 3-6 hours under a 25 lb. mask!
The actual mask is an elephant by design, and the human head (other times a full figure or two heads) at the opposite end is called ntekpe, which represents various things. The ntekpe are usually only found on the Ogbodo Enyi of the senior age/grades, hence indicating the most powerful group with the greatest spiritual authority.
Since 1975 this is the only Igbo masquerade also danced by women. In 1975 children in the Izzi-Igbo village area of Nkaliki began to die of mysterious causes. Petitions to Uke, the community oracle, caused the deaths to stop. Uke then, in a dream to its priestess, made a unique request- the women needed to organize and dance Ogbodo Enyi in its honor.
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