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Mmanwu Mgbedike

'Mmanwụ' is the general name for the masking genre practiced by the Igbo in the northern half of Igboland (Anambra, parts of Ebonyi, Enugu, and parts of Imo). The term mmanwụ describes a wide variety of masquerades in which the masquerader's entire body is completely covered in either knitwear, raffia, grass, or other types of vegetation. The masquerader's body is completely concealed because it is believed that mmanwụ are spirits and thus possess a mystic quality.

The mmanwụ masquerade cult is shrouded by secrecy and its intimacies are known only by initiated men, as women and uninitiated men are strictly prohibited from touching masquerades, or discovering the identities of the men wearing them. If the identity of a masquerade were to be exposed in public (meaning if the mask were to be removed), the spirit manifesting itself in the mask would die. The perpetrator of such an abominable act would be subject to serious penal actions ranging from fines and the forfeiture of social privileges to inflicted madness and death. *The mmanwụ shown in the photograph is known as 'Mgbedike' and is native to the Idemili religion of Anambra*



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