Igbo Mmwo (Maiden Spirit) Costume
The Maiden Spirit masks are made to be worn with elaborately decorated costumes that completely disguise the masquerader beneath the costume. Every inch of them seems to be covered with bright colors and finely appliquéd designs. Amazingly this mask and its costume have remained intact. The designs of the costumes are not just for decoration, but normally tell a story and help transmit messages from the ancestors to the living.. This costume consists of stripes, triangles, zigzags, arches, checkers, and crosshatching repeated throughout the costume in an intense but well organized design. While the exact stories created within these textiles really aren’t known, some of the meanings behind the symbols have been uncovered. For example, the zigzag design is sometimes a representation of lightning, and the checkered pattern is said to be a symbol for cloth. Once completely masked in the costume, the masquerader simulates the quick steps of a young woman and speaks in a high feminine voice, encouraging the dead spirits to continue on to the afterlife.
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