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All Igbo Masquerades’ Names Listed And Described

by Joy

It is not an Igbo festival if a masquerade is not in sight. The Mmanwu as it is called is believed to be an embodiment of the spirit and human worlds, hence the name. The word “Mmanwu” in Igbo means “spirits of the dead”, It is the combination of two Igbo words “mmuo” or “maa” which means spirit, and “onwu” which means death. 

The Igbo traditional masquerade is believed to be a spirit that comes from a tree or the ground, and only the male folks are culturally entitled to have any sort of interaction with it. Not all males though, just the ones who belong to the masquerade secret society. The masquerading crew comprises instrument players, vocalists, advisers, sometimes dancers, and the masquerade itself.  

There are different categories of masquerades that are meant to serve various purposes in the community. Each masquerade possesses particular attributes (warrior-like prowess, or mystical powers, or youthfulness, or feminine beauty, or old age) and specializes in one or more skills (dancing skills, acrobatics, and other ritual manifestations). 

Some masquerades are meant to be only heard, it is forbidden for any human to see them. There are dire consequences for anyone who comes face to face with such mmanwu, the penalty can be as severe as death. These masquerades move under the cover of the darkness and they mostly serve as regulatory or a punishment medium.

Each masquerade’s costume is unique and different. They are covered from head to toe with some piece of clothing or/and bamboo rafters, a wooden mask is worn over the face. The mask varies depending on the type of masquerade and the place of origin within Igboland. Some masks are designed to be beautiful, intimidating, or downright sinister. Most masquerades claim to have some mystical powers and are constantly competing to see which one has the most powers, whenever they appear together especially at village squares or funerals. 


Here are all the masquerades we can lay our hands on in Igboland.

Ijele Masquerade

“Ijele bu nnukwu mmanwu, mmanwu ndi ozo na akwanyere ugwu” best describes the status of this distinct masquerade. The biggest masquerade in the whole of Sub-Sahara Africa, it is commonly said that once the Ijele masquerade steps into the square other masquerades disappear.

The Ijele, according to studies has its roots in the Akunechenyi dance group in Umuleri and Aguleri communities in Anambra State. Some argue that its origin is Enugu State.

Ijele was listed in the UNESCO Archives as an intangible cultural element in need of urgent safeguarding.

The status of Ijele as the king of other masquerades has never been in question. During the old Igbo times, up to 45 other masquerades perform on top of the Ijele. The Ijele can carry other masquerades on top of its elaborate costume, with ease. How you can not take the King away from him?


Presently, the 45 masquerades are represented by the 45 figurines seen on top of Ijele. The myths and size of Ijele are wholesome as every aspect of life is depicted on Ijele. It is the climax of all masquerades hence performs alone and mostly lastly.

It is said that it takes about a hundred men to put together its colorful, vibrant costume over a course of months.

This last line was what put Lai Mohammed in trouble when he once asked youths to go dress masquerades for a living.



It might not be seen as the King of masquerades, but the Izaga masquerade holds the spot down well on its own. The tallest masquerade amongst others, including Ijele, the Ịzaga masquerades have the ability to grow very tall and also make themselves short and minute within moments. Izaga is an entertainment masquerade that comes out during traditional ceremonies or festivals with the sole aim of entertaining the spectators.

mmanwu igbo


Any occasion that is graced by the Izaga masquerade is definitely not a small one, as it is one of the rarest ones. It is an abomination for the Izaga to fall or crash.  


Ulaga is a popular Igbo masquerade although not often seen, as the Ulaga masquerade comes out occasionally mostly during funerals of titled men to pay its last respect or during any event organized in honors or in acknowledgment of someone’s importance in a community.

Igbo masquerades

Okwa-Ebu Masquerade


Okwe-Ebu is a masquerade that accompanies other masquerades. This masquerade serves as both a mouthpiece for the masquerade it accompanies as well as a praise singer to those watching the masquerade display. The praise-singing often results in audience members giving gifts of money or other items of value to Okwa-Ebu and/or the masquerade it accompanies.

Masquerades | Afikpo Online


The chanting of the Agaba masquerade cuts across as melodic at the same time warns of imminent war, it flows in different dialects and cultures amongst the Igbos. 


Igbo masquerades

The Agaba masquerade represents the spirit of an eager warrior that is willing and ready to go to war, the name literally means “let’s go”. The Agaba major attribute is warrior-like prowess, which specializes, in ritual manifestations. Agaba is uncontrollable.

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The masquerade Ekwensu comes out with a big penis costume and a bloody mouth, it wears a very sinister look that scares people away. It is definitely the devil.



The Odo masquerade comes out during the Odo festival only, it is dedicated to the deity.

is a masquerade of the Igbo people peculiar to the northern Igbo people of Enugu State. Odo masquerade represents a deity who affords the living a chance to commune with their dead in line with the Igbo Traditional belief. During the Odo festival, The dead are said to work freely among the living.

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The Ekpe masquerade is popular among the Igbo of Abia State, Enugu state, and Ebonyi State. Most Ekpe masquerades are used to enforce the law in the community and it’s said to be the link to their ancestors.

Igbo masquerades


It is an abomination for a pregnant woman to behold its face, like most masquerades it has a very hideous mask. It is believed that once a woman looks at it, the unborn baby takes the face of the masquerade.



This is one of the most common masquerades you see during events like burials and festivals. 

Categorized as crowd masquerades, they are common among young men and usually carry canes with which they scare people away.

Igbo masquerades

Ota Ikonte Masquerade

Ota Ikonte is a masquerade known for its clownish appearance and behavior. The masquerade entertains by mimicking the gestures of a drunk person, a clown, and other off-beat movements.


The Ekpo masquerade acts as a policeman who enforces the laws of the land especially the laws of the Ekpo. The Ekpo masquerade is popular among the Igbo of Abia State especially those within Arochukwu.Ekpo Masquerades - Wikipedia 


Dinta usually moves in a trio of other masquerades, Odum, and Atu. They put up a display of the dinta pursing the other two masquerade in the guise of hunting them before taking to his heels. This masquerade embodies the soul of hunters.  


Considered the wisest masquerade, Omewaluigwe is known for its talkative nature. He is known for serving proverbs and parables unprovoked in his chants to the applause of the crowd.

Igbo masquerades

Agbogho mmuo

Agbogho mmuo embodies the spirit of dead beautiful maidens manifested in the body of a dancer, parading the communities.

The masks also symbolize the ideals of female beauty among many Nri-Awka Igbo communities.

Igbo masquerades

Oti Aba

The Oti Aba masquerade is a very tall masquerade that entertains people with his dance steps and by hitting its head to the floor.


This masquerade is famous at Anambra state, particularly around Ukpor in Nnewi.

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Mmanwu Ugo

Mmanwu Ugo as the name depicts is a masquerade that takes the form of an Eagle, both in form and attitude. Ugo is an entertainment masquerade most popular among the people of Anambra state.  


Ever come across a masquerade with a rope around its waist, fighting to be let loose? That is Mkpamkpanku. 

Mkpamkpanku is a very agile and aggressive masquerade that is fully masculine featured, It has the appearance of a person. He is notorious for his violent nature, Mkpamkpanku is active to the extent that about two or more strong men are ever around it with the rope that is tied around its waist to draw it back from overacting.

mmanwu ugo


The name literarily translates as an Elephant carrying a child, just as the name implies, it appears in twos. 

Enyi kwo nwa is a popular masquerade among the Igbo of the Enugu state. It comes out for any event in the company of the cult members. The masquerade displays according to the tone of the music played by its cult members as they advance to the event/festival, with the charm carrier clearing the way for them.

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Ajofia meaning Evil Forest is a popular masquerade from the Nnewi axis of Anambra State and other places, it is said that Ajofia doesn’t come out during festive periods, only when a “strong” titled man passes on.

Igbo masquerades


Mmanwu Osimiri shares almost the same features as Ajofia, tall with a smoking pot of charm on its head. It is believed that it rains anywhere the Osimiri masquerade is performing.

Mmanwu Atu

Atu which translates as the deer is an entertainment masquerade. They take the form of the animal, their performance depicts the nature of the deer.


The Ozu masquerade is one of the rare-to-see masquerades as its appearance does not bode well for any reason. First, its name means a dead body; second, it comes with a strong stench that announces its presence before it appears carrying a coffin on the head.

Odum mmanwu

The lion masquerade usually performs in a trio which includes the dinta and atu. The masquerade’s costume is that of a lion and its mannerism.

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Otawaru Ikpo

He is seen as a dreadful masquerade, Otawaru Ikpo has spiritual powers that enable it to dance on cassava leaves. Despite its dreadful nature, its performance is entertaining.


The masquerade is believed to embody the spirits of palm wine tappers long gone. Otenkwu is a very funny dancing masquerade.

Nwa Nzacha and Ote nkwu Masquerade preforming during Ochuchu afor Festival. - YouTube


Odogwu is a warrior-like masquerade. He exhibits youthful and aggressive exuberance. He is represented as a “Bloodshot-eyed rebel”. Its major attribute is a demonstration of youthfulness with a specialty in intimidation. The Odogwu is also known for the highly charged chanting that accompanies its rhythms.

Igbo masquerades

Okpontu Ulogo 

Okpontu Ulogo is a masquerade that adorns itself with ashes left over from burning coal in the ancestral common house for initiated Afikpo males called Ogo. Because this masquerade uses ashes as part of its makeup, it usually appears dirty

okpontu-ulogo_04 | Afikpo Online


Ojionu represents the water spirits, a very happy spirit. The masquerade is known for its creative energetic dancing and lively performance. Ojionu appears in the form of water animals with the headdress of crocodiles, sharks, and other water creatures.

Igbo masquerades


Isiocha is an entertainment masquerade with white hair. It is one of the crowd masquerades that comes out during occasion with canes to scare people away.


Okwomma carries a cutlass, well sharpened. He uses this to shake hands, to collect money, and to greet people who are in the cult, or other great masquerades.

mmanwu ugo


The Okonko masquerade belongs to the Okonko fraternity, popular amongst the Abia State people. It is usually a rite of passage every male indigene is meant to pass through in the olden days.


The masquerade is a representation of the Ngwu deity, it only appears once in a while during the deity’s festival or at the burial of an initiate or an influential person in the community.

Ngwu masquerades are seen at the graveside of an initiate lamenting just before and after the person has been laid to rest.

Igbo masquerades

Ezi Ofia 

The masquerade depicts the character of the animal that is attached to its name ‘the wild Pig’


The Ebu masquerades usually come out of a box, the masquerade has the ability to fold itself like paper, grow very tall and also make itself short.

Ebu masquerades


Omaba is a popular Igbo masquerade among the Igbos within the northern Igbo area of Nsukka. Omaba masquerade comes in different masks and mostly appears and display during the Omaba festival.

Ugwoke masquerade

This masquerade is very popular in Enugu State. Each time it appears, it leaves the crowd entertained.


It falls under the category of warrior masquerades. Mgbadike wields an axe or a cutlass. During its display, one of its followers uses the cutlass to cut open his mouth without any injury at all.

Awuru Masquerade

It was historically a means of providing security against crimes such as stealing, poisoning, and killing of persons or crop destruction: if there was a case of such a crime, the masquerade was consulted and the main suspect was asked to swear to Awuru to prove his innocence. The victim of the crime could ask the masquerades to kill (that is “ili mmonwu”) whoever was responsible for the crime.

Udo Akpu Enyi

This is another warrior masquerade. He embodies the spirit of a very strong warrior.

mmanwu ugo


Achikwu is categorized under the invisible masquerades, it is one of those dreadful masquerades meant to be heard and not seen. 

It only moves under the cover of the night and the community is alerted of its movement to avoid consequences. It is said that all the sources of light will be switched off in such a night and no one will be seen outside, failure of all these attracts great consequences.

This is a popular masquerade in Anambra state particularly around Aguata, Orumba North, and South area.

It is a bad omen to be visited by Achikwu, as it could only mean you have committed an abomination and he is there to meet out your punishment.

Owa Egara Akatakpa

One of the most beautiful and the most adorned masquerade in the Enugu axis. The costumes are made with different shining and beautiful ornaments.

it is not aggressive but rather peaceful, calm, and beautiful. It is equally known for its magical dancing step.

Whenever it is on display, the spectators will gather around to watch as they applaud and cheer it up.

It usually performs in the company of two other masquerades; Ochi Ajagba,

Mkporogwu masquerade

This masquerade can be seen mostly at Anambra state.

Ochi Ajagba 

It usually comes out unexpectedly and chases the crowd away while Owa Egara Akatakpa is performing.

The Akatakpa Ochi Ajagba is known for its waring spirit. The costume is that of a warrior. Ochi Ajagba is casually dressed and always with a whip to flog the audience constituting nuisance and blocking other people’s view.

Akatakpa Kpurukpuru 

This is another special kind of Akatakapa masquerade. The costume differs from every other Akatakpa.

Kpurukpuru is adorned with different shades of color, but it is always known for its yellow color. It is the only Akatapa that is decorated with a shade of yellow.


Popular among the people of Enugu. It is known for its slim body with a very big head and is feared for its mysterious powers.


This is a popular masquerade around the Enugu and Ebonyi axis. It has a head full of thorns with furs around the hand.


This is a social critic masquerade, it cries about the ills in the society. It has an ugly marble face. 

The list of masquerades spread across Igboland is inexhaustible, think of any aspect of human life and you have an mmanwu representation of it. When next you are at an Igbo event lookout for a masquerade, I promise it will leave fascinated, entertained and scared at the same time.  

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