Igbo-Afikpo Mask mma ji. “Yam root knife” (Mma ji) called mask, the bow-like forehead extension represents a machete that was used in field work and used to be a weapon.

Mask, “mma ji”
Igbo-Afikpo, Nigeria
With base
Wood, raphia. H 34.5 cm.

Denise David estate (1928-2011), Zurich.

In particular, she is said to have performed at celebrations for the yam harvest. The Afikpo masks were not allowed to be danced by women, but they were definitely welcome as spectators.


Cole, Herbert M. (1984). Igbo Arts. Los Angeles: Museum of Cultural History, UCLA.

Igbo – Ibo Tribal Mask And Art History And Culture

In the North we have the Igbo Mmo society that represents the spirits of deceased maidens and their mothers with masks symbolizing beauty. Common characteristics found on the masks are- finely sculptured thin and small well-placed women’s features, which are accentuated by tattoos.

In the South we find the Ekpe society, introduced from the Cross River area. They use contrasting masks during ceremonies; two examples are maiden spirit mask representing beauty and peacefulness, and the elephant spirit, representing aggression and strength. The Okorosia masks, is similar to the Mmo of the Northern Ibo.

A wide variety of masks are found among the Ibo. The masks, of wood and or fabric, are used in a many rituals or celebrations. Namely: social satires, sacred rituals (for ancestors and invocation of the gods), initiation, second burials, and public festivals, which now include Christmas and Independence Day. Music. . Elaborate costumes, musical instruments, song, dance and participation from the entire village, create a unique carnival atmosphere to public festivals.

Eastern Ibo are known for masquerades associated with the Iko Okochi harvest festival, in which the forms of the masks are determined by tradition, the festival theme content varies yearly.

A variety of decorative wooden objects are made by the Igbo people, namely, musical instruments, doors, stools, mirror frames, trays for offering kola nuts to guests, fertility dolls, and small figures used in divination.

Sculpture from the Igbo people date back as far as 900AD and were made from leaded bronze and copper objects.

Over the years Ibo people have embraced a great variety of beliefs and art styles from neighboring tribes. The wide variety of cultural influences from regional tribes creates rich cultural diversity and Igbo worship, this is clearly depicted in the ceremonial rituals, artistic creations, music, and song and dance.

The Igbo people are a large but widely spread population that inhabits both sides of the Niger river. The river with its fertile surroundings, provide ideal agricultural farming land to all the inhabitants.

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