Okumkpa (Theatre Mask)


By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


Found in Southeastern Igboland, primarily in Afikpo towns, mkpe (meaning 'horns') masks are worn by adult men (usually musicians) of the Mmwo (or Mma) secret society. Mkpe masks are danced annually by masqueraded men during Okumkpa ceremonies to celebrate the end of the dry season and to satirise the lives of villagers. The mkpe mask is believed to represent a goat (ewu).

They are also used during Logholo chasing games; masqueraders play in the village common, chased by uninitiated boys. "Logholo is played in most Afikpo villages on eke (market) day."2

Distinguishing Features

  • Made from hard wood (mba)
  • Height = 12 - 16 inches
  • Width = 4 - 5 inches
  • Horns on top of head
    • Horns curve backwards
    • Taper to pointed ends
    • Painted black
  • Sides of face slightly convex
  • Two facial planes meet in middle of face to form raised ridge
  • Forehead (or whole face) painted black
  • Black curved eyebrows
  • Oval holes carved out to form eyes
  • Tear marks on cheeks
    • Coloured camwood and black
    • Curve out of eyes to sides of face
  • No nose
  • Mouth has no lips
    • Incised diagonals form mouth
    • Painted red
  • Pointed chin

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