IGBO Dance Costume w/mask Nigeria
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Cloth & wood
57 x 56 x 7 in
A fabric technique well established throughout Africa is applique, a word used to describe the process of adding additional materials to an already woven textile base. The Igbo people of southern Nigeria make masquerade costumes which are appliqued with cotton and wool cloth. This example employs strips of cloth to make diamond and triangular patters in red, yellow, green, white, and black. The masquerade costume, worn by men, is made to imitate female ancestor spirits. This costume is made for the agbogho mmamwu or "maiden spirit" masquerade in which a masked figure portraying the female dead appears. The costume is conceived as an idealization of female beauty. J.S. Boston points out that the "costume worn by these masks is a two-piece suit of black cloth, decorated liberally with bold designs in vivid colours which represent a masculine interpretation in felt and coloured wool, of body designs which are traditionally a female ornament." Picton and Mack add: "In other words this imitation of female body decoration transforms the cloth suit of the masquerade into a symbolic vehicle. Traditionally it complemented the mask and rendered the whole symbolically and visually consistent."