Okumkpa (Theatre Mask)


By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


Found in Southeastern Igboland, primarily in the town Afikpo, beke (also called mbeke or bekee in some sources; meaning 'white man') masks are one of the most commonly used masks worn by young men of the Mmwo (or Mma) secret society. Beke masks are danced annually during Okumkpa ceremonies to celebrate the end of the dry season and are danced to satirise the lives of villagers - some celebrations can last up to four hours. Younger adult men wear the masks to represent women or European men during festivals.

Beke masks are also used during Njenji festivals, performed by young boys and adults to depict scholars, missionaries, businessmen, white men and Muslims.

Distinguishing Features

  • Height = 8 - 9 inches
  • Width = 4 - 5 inches
  • Oval face
  • Rounded forehead
  • Face painted white
  • Sides of mask and under chin painted black / dark brown framing the white face
  • Black, curved eyebrows
  • Oval cut-out eyes
  • Large bridged nose
  • Bridge of nose painted black
  • Black nostrils
  • Concave cheeks
  • Red, oval, pouting mouth
  • Black lips

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