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Igbo Mmwo Mask
This spectacular mask is an Agbogho Mmwo or Maiden Spirit mask and comes from the Igbo people of Nigeria. The two most important types of masks among the Igbo are those idealizing the qualities of young women – grace, purity, beauty and generosity – and those of young men – bravery, determination and strength. The Mmwo masks represent maidens from the spiritual realm.
Mmwo masks are based on the idealized physical and moral qualities of young women. Physically, a girl should be tall and slender, with a long neck, her facial features should be proportionate and elegant and must be emphasised by facial tattoos. Her hair should be elaborately dressed in the crested style – a sign of wealth or royalty and hence an indication of her bride price. In terms of morality, these physical features are symbolic of her required behaviour. Her facial features are an indication of grace, the manner in which she dances symbolize the qualities of good behaviour, generosity and kindness. The white colouration on the mask represents purity. These physical and moral characteristics are not necessarily expected in reality, they are idealized and meant to show that the maiden spirits are mystical and otherworldly.
The masks are predominantly used during festivals associated with the harvest and at funerals of important members of the community. During harvest festivals, the spirit maidens are asked to watch over the living and to promote abundant harvests, fertility and general prosperity. At funerals, the maidens are invoked, alongside other spirits, to act as escorts to the highly respected dead, to travel with them on their journey into the spirit world. (In some areas, the Mmwo masks and their male counterparts are used in storytelling and may represent an entire family – a mother and father, their daughters, sometimes an irresponsible son and an unacceptable, over-amorous suitor. As the story unfolds, the maiden’s dances become ever faster and more impressive as the performers compete with one another for audience approval.)
The maiden masks are always worn by men dressed in bright woven fibre costumes whose patterning loosely resembles monochromatic designs painted as temporary adornment on young women’s bodies. The dancers are completely covered – including hands and feet – so their identity is unknown to the onlookers.
The mask comes with a stand.
Size: 550mm x 300mm x 200mm
1 in stock