Masquerade Festival

The masquerade (Mmanwu) is a very important and colourful institution. The masquerades dress in colourful robes and masks made of wood or fabric. Although most of the masquerades appear at every festival, some are particularly special and only appear once. According to traditional Igbo beliefs, masquerades represent images of deities or relatives. The identity of the masquerade is a well-kept secret and the roles are performed exclusively by men. In Ebonyi, the festival features the Omaba EkpeAwuru and Ogbodu masquerades. Of these, the most dreaded of all is the Awuru masquerade which, unlike the others, was historically a means of providing security against crimes such as stealing, poisoning, and killing of persons or crop destruction: if there was a case of such a crime, the masquerade was consulted and the main suspect was asked to swear to Awuru to prove his innocence. The victim of the crime could ask the masquerades to kill (that is "ili mmonwu") whoever was responsible for the crime.