Okumkpa (Theatre Mask)

Okpesu Umuruma

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


Found in Southeastern Igboland, primarily in Afikpo towns, okpesu umuruma (meaning 'frighten children'; also called ihu ori, meaning 'face ugly') masks are worn by older performers at Okumkpa ceremonies. Okpesu umuruma masks are danced annually by during Okumkpa ceremonies to celebrate the end of the dry season and to satirise the lives of villagers.

Said to represent a self-interested old man (or in rare cases woman), these masks are used to highlight the social illness of greed. The distorted features of the face scare young children during masquerade performances.

Distinguishing Features

  • Asymmetrical black / dark brown face
  • Bulging forehead
  • Heavy bulging eyelids
  • Protruding circular eyes
    • In rare cases eyes are cut-out ovals
  • Bulging cheeks
  • Flat broad nose
  • Mouth protrudes forward at a crooked angle
  • Large teeth in some cases
  • Glued on beard
  • Deformed mask
    • Distortions usually in eyes, cheeks or mouth areas
  • Brown, red and white detailing
  • NOTE: There are a huge number of variations to mask style / features

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