TITLE: Igbo Agbogho Mmuo
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
DESCRIPTION: Agbogho Mmuo (Maiden Spirit) Mask
CATALOG ID: AFNG004
CEREMONY: Agriculture; Funeral; Secret Society; Spirit Invocation
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin clay; pigment
The Igbo are a numerous people inhabiting southern Nigeria. They have a rich masking tradition based on their traditional religion, Odinani, the circumcision ritual of adulthood, and initiation into secret societies. The Agbogho Mmuo, or Maiden Spirit, is a helmet mask intended to represent the spirit of a beautiful female ancestor and is danced during the dry season as part of agricultural rituals, as well as during funerals of prominent members of the masking secret society.
The mask is worn by men only, who imitate the movements of a graceful female to music played on traditional drums and other instruments. Singers also participate and pay tribute to real and past girls. The whiteness of the mask does not idealize light skin, but instead indicates the spirit nature of the girl represented. The elaborate hair style with comb decorations is intended to enhance the beauty of the mask.