MMỤỌ, a one-month contemporary art exhibition of Igbo masquerades,
is underway at the Center for Memories Gallery, Awgu Street, Independence Layout, Enugu.
The Center for Memories is a repository of Igbo culture, traditions and memories informing and empowering leaders to serve with excellence and integrity.
The organisers say the exhibition is a major way of reviving interest in Igbo culture, preserving the art form, and situating them in modernity. This is why they are curating the art of Chuma Anagbado in the exhibition, Mmuo, which translates to ‘spirit’ forms.
They said it is an apt theme for the month-long solo contemporary art exhibition on Igbo Masquerading, Spirituality, Performance & Visual Resonance, which kicked off on Saturday.
This exhibition opened on August 14 and runs till September 14, 2021.
It features a presentation of multi-sensorial aspects of Igbo masquerading – movement, sounds, materials, masks, and scent.
The Executive Director of the centre, Iheanyi Igboko, said the exhibition was part of its efforts to document the history and culture of the Igbo nation.
Mr Igboko said the move became necessary following the tendency by contemporary society to demonise the masquerade culture, especially in Nigerian movies.
Igboko said masquerades were an important aspect of the Igbo culture with spiritual importance.
“It is our responsibility to tell our stories the way they should be because masquerades play cultural, social, and spiritual roles in Igbo land,” Igboko said.
The organisers also said masquerades – the costumes, songs, poetry, dance, proverbs, and other displays that accompany their performances, embody the essence of Igbo culture, history and civilisation.
‘‘Masquerades themselves are complex beings embodying Igbo performative art, knowledge systems and the sublime existence between the worlds of the spirits and the living.
‘‘In pre-colonial Igbo communities, masks and masquerades helped to maintain balance and order by fighting crimes, enforcing laws, instilling values and administering justice,’’ they said.
Mr Anagbado, who holds a Masters’ Degree in Design from the University for Creative Arts (UCA), Rochester, United Kingdom, said the focus on the masquerades was because of their spiritual significance in Igbo land.
“The aim of the exhibition is to show that our culture is not evil and we should be proud of what we have.
“Masquerades sit as a portal between the living and the dead. In Igbo nation, we do not believe in the dead going away because we believe that people live forever.
“So, this is me bringing our ancestors to join us in our festivities and in the day-to-day running of our communities. It is part of our sociocultural construct,” Mr Anagbado said.
In a goodwill message, Enugu State Commissioner for Information, Chidi Aroh, commended the promoters of the exhibition.
Mr Aroh, who was represented by the Head of Publication of the ministry, Ossy Ogboso, said such a programme needed to be sustained for the sake of posterity.
Since her inception, CFM has remained committed to documenting and showcasing Igbo history and culture.
They have collaborated with museums, memory centers, and artists from across the globe to design and implement world-class exhibitions in different forms like audio, visual, and interactive sections.
Between 2017 and 2021, the centre has so far organised five major exhibitions cutting across different themes and showcasing diverse Igbo art forms and cultures.
NAN reports that the first exhibition featured masquerades, costumes, and musical instruments indigenous to the Adazi-Nnukwu Town of Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra.
Among the masquerades on parade was the largest masquerade in Igbo land called Ijele, Ogbunaikenga, the acrobatic masquerade that carries the strength of the community.
Others are Nne Mmanwu (the masquerade matriarch), the tilted and very rich masquerade that performs solo called Ogalanya Aboma, and the tallest masquerade on stilts known as Izaga.