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Masquerade societies were crucial to the regulation of law and order in the traditional Igbo village structure. Not only were masquerades objects of amusement for crowds and audiences, but they also served a purpose much similar to that of a modern-day police force. Members of these male-exclusive societies were often responsible for the persecution of individuals accused of theft, murder, and other serious crimes, in addition to being expected to live by a high moral code. During festivals and special occasions they would disguise themselves in masks, which are said to be avatars of deceased ancestors. The main masquerade societies in Igboland are Mmanwu, Ekpo, Okonko and Ekpe.


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