Face mask ("maa ji," yam cutting knife)

Igbo peoples, Afikpo subgroup
20th–mid 20th century
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General Description

The maa ji is among the hundreds of masks that appear in annual Dry Season parades and masquerades along with the igri (1998.83.McD). The maa ji is a face mask with a yam-cutting-knife-like form projecting from its forehead. The masquerades present the Afikpo world, which includes men, women, students, teachers, missionaries, Muslims, Europeans, and Westernized Africans. The masked dancers act out a series of humorous, but critical, skits dramatizing the violations of traditionally approved behavior. For example, a skit might complain about the greediness of village elders or women's breaches of conduct. The masked actors, who wear or carry special objects to further identify their character, are accompanied by musicians, singers, and dancers who also wear masks.

Adapted from

Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, Arts of Africa, 2015.