Intangible heritage

Ijele masquerade. ©UNESCO 2008
Ijele masquerade

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Language(s): English

Summary/Historical Context

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"In many communities in the state of Anambra in south-eastern Nigeria, celebrations, burial ceremonies and other special occasions during the dry season to evoke fertility and a bountiful harvest feature the performance of the Ijele masquerade.
The mask is about four metres tall - so large that it takes a hundred men six months of work to prepare the costume and build an outdoor house to hold it before a performance. Divided into upper and lower segments by a large python at the centre, the ijele is constructed of colourful fabric on a skeleton of bamboo sticks and decorated with figurines and depictions of every aspect of life. The towering masked figure dances at the culmination of a series of other masquerades, protected by six 'police' and carrying a mirror with the power to draw in and punish evildoers. Ijele mask carriers, chosen by ballot, seclude themselves for three months, during which they live on a special diet to acquire the strength necessary to don the mask. The masquerade plays a number of important roles in the community: spiritually, it marks both festive and solemn occasions; politically, it provides an opportunity to reaffirm loyalty to a chief or king; and culturally it provides a popular entertainment as young boys and girls sing and dance to the tunes of Akunechenyi music."

on this subject: Nomination file- Dossier de candidature

Place/Country: Nigeria
Series: 2009 Inscriptions on the Representative List
Type: Documentary
Authors and personalities: E. A.Odekanyin, director ; D. Alahiya-A. B. Aiibola, director.
Published in:
Rights/Droits: A. B. Ajibola

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