Masquerades of Inyi

At last he yielded to his daughter’s persistent request. Her hair was shaved before she was dressed up in boy clothes. By sundown the pair left for the village square.


Mmawu (Masquerades)

Music was the breeze that flowed through the oja* and drums of the festival. The masquerades were swift, their dance energetic. While everyone chanted their names, the little girl begged to see more. He obliged, placing her on his shoulder. That was when the music and dancing stopped.

The masquerades could sense a female in the crowd. They drew their shiny daggers and stepped towards the man and his daughter.

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Some Igbo musical instruments





In some parts of Igbo land (before the advent of the Brits) it’s against the tradition for a woman/girl to come anywhere near a masquerade. It’s believed that this woman or girl would “bite” (reveal) the one who wore the mask. Masquerades like Agaba were among the deadliest/most brutal performers who wouldn’t hesitate to kill a woman/girl (offender) on the spot.


(*) oja is a small flute which takes a great deal of energy and skill to blow. It makes a wonderful melody.

62 thoughts on “Masquerades of Inyi

  1. I do hope this little one survived. Very good narration of a chilling factoid. I’m sure it is no longer the practice, right?

    1. Me too–it’s my wish that they both survive. If it was still very much in the past, I doubt they will the sun again. Nowadays, we still have masquerades. But the much they do is to cry whips around. They don’t kill anyone. Thanks for commenting, MJ 🙂

  2. Thank you, my blogging brother, for sharing with all of us the rich traditions of a culture most know nothing about. I’ll have to share with you my experiences in your country, Nigeria, five years ago. Great post!

    1. Your blog is unique. Thanks for commenting on my post and wow! I’d love to read about your stay in Nigeria. Wonder what part you’re in at the time.

      1. I am honored by your acknowledgement of my site. I will send to you an email about my all-to-brief but busy visit to Nigeria. Your blog is impressive! Thank you for sharing! 🙂 Much love!

        1. Please visit my blog on Monday, April 22, 2013 (tomorrow). I nominate your blog for an award. I DO remember that I owe you an email. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Sky. It’s one of the many things now affected by a new religion as well as influence of foreign cultures. Thankfully women and girls are not treated that way any more.

    1. It’s my pleasure as always to share these stories with you all. I’m happy you read this one–masquerades are still a part of us, though there are no incidents of killing any more.

  3. Powerful writing. Dfunpen – I thought it was a cliff hanger too until I read the explanation of the tradition. Now I know the little girl was killed. And perhaps her father too.

    1. You’re absolutely right, Darlene. Back then, the man and his daughter would’ve been forcefully separated. Only a kind masquerade would let the girl live–that’s after the crowd and her father must’ve begged for mercy.

  4. Well written, nice pace and breath taking ending… which leaves only one wound open… why is it a snippet… wanna know what happened next 😦

  5. I am reminded of Anna Karenina who went to the ball against the advice of her lover and them distraught cried that if he truly loved her he would have locked her up rather than let her face the daggers of society’s eyes. We all meet cultural taboos when our passions and curiosities are given free reign.

    1. Oh that’s a chilling tale. Yes, our curiousities could at times get us into trouble. Big troubles in fact. I’ve my own experience of this although I must say that am lucky to be alive.

  6. Another piece of beauty, Uzoma. I caught my breath at the end and wanted more. I love that you included the photos – such a fascinating glimpse into another culture. Always a pleasure to read your work!

  7. Some powerful aspects to cultural law, and lore, in moments of choice, with the decisions made (or we might make) above. Uzo, do you play any of the traditional instruments, either mentioned in the writing, or in the image above? Interest, and insight abound in you writing above, is good to learn more from your words each week.

    1. Wow! What generous comment, Sean! Um, I can’t play all them–wish I could 😦 But I certainly can play the drum and Igondo (the ones with rectangular holes in them). One of my uncles (now late) knew how to blow the oja. It’s not in the pics, but I hope to upload here–in one of my future stories. I’m glad you enjoyed the snippet. I pray inspiration continues to sit close to me so I could write more African stories.

  8. Wow! I sure am glad I wasn’t around then, that girl in all probability would be me. My curiosities would have lead me to an early grave. Nice one Uzo! Riveting… to say the least…

    1. Hehe 😀 I bet it wasn’t your destiny to leave so early–just like me, because I can be stubbornly curious. You’ll live long, my dear friend to see your children’s children. Thanks for commenting.

    1. Oh thank you so much, sis! Well, that’s why I stopped at the stage of the story. I couldn’t bring myself to the harsh reality of the past.

  9. My heart was thumping with every beat of the drum! I love your stories and I’m so glad that I have some time today to properly catch up. 🙂 Also, thank you for putting your “notes” at the bottom of your work. I enjoy reading the “factual” bits and learning as I go along!

    1. The thanks deservedly goes to you, Whitney, for finding time to read and comment. Yeah, most people–me included–would’ve wondered why the masquerades behaved in such an abrupt manner if history didn’t come alongside this snippet.

      The world gets smaller and better when we learn about others. Again, thank you so much!

      1. You’re definitely right! I truly believe education and learning is the key to this world. No one will ever be able to take it away from you, except for yourself.
        Great post though, and I’m looking forward to hearing more about the book you’re working on!

      1. Hi Uzoma, thank you! But I can’t take the credit for “Sword and Soul.” It’s a new fantasy genre created by Charles Saunders, that blends African history, mythology and/or folklore with sorcery 🙂

  10. Wow!! Just read one and i felt I was in a cinema! You write so vividly, can’t wait for more….thanks for stopping by mine…I’m a rookie tho; ,,,lol

    1. Gracias Carabali (Jeyc). It’s a pleasure to meet you and I hope you’d come around some more. Will definitely drop by your blog after this.

  11. Short stories are my favourite genre, both to read and to write, so you’ve got me 🙂 I loved the ending especially because it ‘forced’ me to mull over the entire story and create several of my own endings- some tragic, some happy. Well done.

    1. Wow! That’s good to know. Someday, I hope to compile my short stories into a book, but then that should be after my first book.

      Yeah, I was going for a cliffhanger. In that way, the reader also gets involved in the storytelling…hehe 😉 Thanks for taking the time to comment. I dearly appreciate the visits.

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