In Africa there are many ethnic groups and some are more popular than others. These groups have different languages, way of life, and are located all over the mother land. One of the largest and most popular ethnic groups or tribes in Nigeria is the Igbo tribe. The Igbo people reside in southeastern and south-central Nigeria. When one speaks about the culture of a tribe, interest is in the art, food, music, language, and even the cultural dance forms, if any. Today we will be looking at the Igbo cultural dance attire, to learn more, continue reading this article.
What is Igbo cultural dance?
Dance is a universal form of expression. The Igbo people perform dances for a myriad of different reasons. They also have many different types of cultural dances, some are performed by a specific gender or skilled persons. Such dances are not only performed to express happiness but as an indication of the following:
● readiness for marriage when performed in front of possible matches.
● spiritual reasons.
● welcoming the return of soldiers who had dedicated their lives to serve and protect their country and citizens.
The Igbo cultural dance, if you pay close attention, usually depicts a story. You can see different emotions being portrayed, you may see happiness, grief, appreciation, strength, bravery, love etc. Despite the change in time and countless influences faced, Igbos still maintain and preserve their heritage and identity.
READ ALSO: Nigerian traditional art and culture.
Types of Igbo cultural dance and cultural dance attire
Popular dances among the Igbo tribe are as follows:
The word Atilogwu means "is this magic?". It is considered as an acrobatic dance. This kind of Igbo dance is fast and spirited. Its movement is centered around aerobatics such as jumping, flipping, rolling, foot stomping etc. It is performed by young men and women not only for entertainment purposes but to keep them in shape and occupy their time so that they will stay away from trouble. This dance requires vigorous training before it is presented to the public at festivals and other celebratory occasions. After its approval, it will be performed.
The costume worn for Atilogwu is vibrant, see the photo before for a visual representation.
Another stilt dancing masquerade is performed at ceremonies like burials. See the photo below for a representation of how they are dressed while performing.
This dance is a kind of masquerade in which young men display and boast great bravery and strength in the face of danger. They are typically dressed like the individuals seen in the photo below.
4. Ese (funeral dance)
This dance has two versions: the ‘Ese-Ike’ and 'Esa-Ala'. The Ese-Ike is performed to celebrate the life of a man who has accomplished a lot throughout his lifetime on an hoisted platform. The ‘Ese-Ala’ celebrates the life of a woman who has accomplished a lot throughout her lifetime on a grounded level, instruments played here includes the drums and xylophones.
5. Igba Ndi Eze
Commonly called the dance for the kings, Igba Ndi Eze is used to usher kings, titled men and women into special occasions. Just have a look at the attires used for this kind of cultural dance.
For the Izaga cultural attire, white is worn and the individual carries and rings a bell to announce its manifestation. It also includes a stilt masquerade.
Igede, sometimes called the royal dance is a traditional dance group for the Kings and wealthy people of Igbo land.
Ijele is often called the king's masquerade. It is usually accompanied and preceded by other small masquerades in Igbo celebratory events. The photo below illustrates perfectly how the Ijele cultural attire looks.
Also called the war dance, this is performed to welcome soldiers home from tribal wars. Today it symbolizes fearlessness and courage of an Igbo tribe and its victory. As you can see from the pictures below, the attire for this cultural dance is minimal and its main element is a special cap.
This is another kind of masquerade dance that was used to protect divine status and to deliver discernment or retribution to powerful people besides the masquerades. The masquerades were excluded because they were unobtainable and thought to be spirits, people feared them.
11. Nkwa Umu-Agbogho
Also called the "Maiden dance", this dance is popular among and performed by a caucus of young women. Nkwa Umu-Agbogho was performed in a manner in which they moved their waist and chest seductively to attract male admirers. They also believe that the dance would help young girls to conserve their bodies and abstain from intimate relationships before marriage by keeping their mind and body busy.
The performance of this dance marks the beginning of the cascading and/or the sowing season. Such a ceremony demonstrates control and unity of community and is of great importance.
Okorosha is said to be the masquerade ceremonial highlight of towns like Amauju. Such a dance demonstrates the cultural and race-related appreciation of its people. It also brings back individuals who originated from Amauju and its surrounding areas.
14. Omuru-onwa and Agbacha-Ekuru nwa
Both these dances were enjoyed and performed by married women and new mothers. Such a dance not only for fun but also as a form of exercise to lose weight, baby fat and to keep fit.
I hope this article was very informative for you as I tried my best to cover and give visual representations of some popular Igbo cultural dance attires. If you would like to know more or even share some information, leave a comment below!
READ ALSO: Igbo traditional wedding.