Here are some facts you may not know about Africa biggest masquerade, ijele masquerade.
1. Ijele Masquerade aka King of all Masquerades is the biggest Masquerade in Africa, it can be found in Anambra and Enugu State, Nigeria.
It is so big, that 45 different other masquerades used to perform on top of it in the olden days. Presently, the 45 masquerades are represented by 45 figurines on top of the Ijele.
2. Ijele is the largest mask system ever to enter the history of the world masking tradition.
3 The ijele masquerade comprises two segments: the upper (Mkpu Ijele) and the lower segment (Akpakwuru Ijele) abd the two segnebts are divided at the centre by a big python (Eke – Ogba).
4. Ijele masquerade towers about 15 ft to 12 ft . It is built around the intricacy of multicolor cloths, bamboo sticks and canes in line with a creative hand element.
It takes about 100 men to work for six months in preparation of Ijele costumes and house before an outing performance.
5. ijele masquerade wain in 2005 listed in UNESCO Archives as an intangible cultural element in need of urgent safeguarding.
6. According to UNESCO recent commentary on the Origin of Ijele Masquarade, It is believed that a dance group called Akunechenyi from Umuleri Aguleri gave rise to Ijele.
However, the origin of Ijele according to available Oral story, emanated from Akwunechenyi dance group belonging to Umudiana Village of Ikenga
7. Ijele masquerade was originally intended to 1) intimidate and scare away the early missionaries as well as 2) celebrate royalty and greatness in Igboland. one didn’t work out as planned as now Anambra the birthplace of ijele can be said to be the most religious eastern state in Nigeria with churches in every nook and cranny.
8. The myth and size of Ijele is wholesome as every aspect of life is depicted on Ijele. It is the climax of all masquerades hence performs alone and mostly last. Ijele is a family of 4: the mother; father; police and palm wine taper which will be discussed under the Ijele family below.
9. Ijele performs at the burial ceremonies of great and powerful kings or special men and women in Igboland. It also performs at the burial ceremony of any member of the Ijele family or at the death of the oldest man in the community. Ijele mostly perform during the dry season to mark fertility and annual bountiful harvest. It equally performs at special festivals and occasions.
10. Also been a king and all Ijele never steps out to perform unless Seven Cannon gunshots are released to the air alongside the sound of its royal music.