THE USE OF MASKS IN IGBO THEATRE IN NIGERIA: The Aesthetic Flexibility of Performance Traditions

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This study examines the aesthetics of Igbo mask theatre in South-Eastern Nigeria. The author contextualizes this art in contemporary Igbo society, at a time of renewed global interest in the theater of masks. The implications of the theater’s association with new religions (Islam and Christianity) and the extant vestiges of a traditional religion that has changed beyond recognition.


“This study is a welcome addition to the ever-growing body of work on Igbo culture and its expressive and linguistic practices that has emerged in the last twenty years. It will be a good source of information for a variety of people interested in African, Nigerian and Igbo studies – from the scholar-intellectual of African studies to the intercultural theatre and performance practitioner and theorist, and from the ordinary tourist to the serious cultural tourist interested in Igbo cultural life.” – Dr. Osita A. Okagbue, Department of Drama, Goldsmiths College, University of London

“Dr. Ukaegbu’s work is the most thorough and exhaustive scholarly work on Igbo Theatre at present. He has incorporated research by major Western and African scholars before him and critiques their observations and arguments before engaging the reader with his own detailed semiotic analysis of Igbo performance aesthetics.” – Dr. Ediaba Irobi, Tenured Associate Professor of International Theatre / African Diasporic Performance Studies, School of Theatre, Ohio University

“Ukaegbu uses the Igbo as a focus for a comparative study of masking performance traditions. Critically, this study draws on an impressive and universal range of theories and performance research on Igbo mask performances, specifically prioritizing an African performance-centered reading of masking performances aesthetics in Nigeria.” – Dr. Sam Kasule, Programme Leader, English, School of Humanities, Faculty of Arts, Design and Technology, University of Derby

Table of Contents

List of Tables
List of Illustrations and Figures
Foreword by Osita A. Okagbue
1 Introduction
2 Igbo Society: Traditional Polity and Socio-cultural Background
3 Origins, Concept and Development of Igbo Masking
4 Triangular Relationship: Igbo Religion, Cosmology and the Masking Theatre
5 Igbo Regions and Performance Landscapes
6 Performance Frameworks
7 Performance Contexts, Structure and Staging
8 Dramatic Action, Narrative and Characterization
9 Acting and Stagecraft
10 Mask Designs
11 Masking Music and Dance
12 Costuming
13 Make-up, Props and Theatrical Meaning
14 Women and Gender in Igbo Masking: Venerable Distance
15 Theatre Organization and Performance Management
16 Performance and Skills Training
17 Space: Concept, Designs and Uses
18 Reception: Audiences, Spectatorship and Participation
19 Conclusion: Aesthetic Flexibility

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