After reading ‘Igbo Ijele Mask’ there were a number of things I found fascinating, but the most interesting for me was the ritual that takes place when the mask makes an appearance, this ritual is seen as magnificent.
I would like to give a summary of the ritual, hopefully this would convey the nature and importance of this mask as well as emphasize the significance given to it. The mask is very large, its 4-6 meters in height and 3 meters in diameter, so for this a fairly tall wooden framework is made, tall enough for a man wearing this mask to enter, the performance takes place in an enclosure, made out of horizontal and vertical poles lashed together, plaited with palm leaves. Here, before the Injele is revealed elders and priests prepare the hundreds of ijbo spectators. (some who have traveled very far to see this performance) An atmosphere of great excitement and festivity is created and glimpses of the the top of the mask are shown, creating cheers and even more excitement, the orchestra then plays and sometimes other masks perform to create a build-up to the main, magnificent mask. The Ijele mask then makes an appearance alongside the tune of the orchestra and dances back and fourth, creating a sense of urgency from the audience. The man wearing the Injele mask walks very slow, magnifying the importance and significant presence of the mask, around him there are many men, who symbolize spirits.
The fact the performance is so great shows the magnificence of the mask. The mask only makes an appearance once every twenty five years, the rarity of its appearance emphasizes its greatness.