Community shrine to the deities Udo and Ogwugwu (with the shrine’s priest) of Udo,

Successful, powerful shrines, like this one, often contain numerous carved figures that represent the extended family of the main deities, plus one or more ikenga (the most evident of which is to the far left) and other protective, offensive, and defensive ritual materials. The wood images were carved by men, painted (and repainted annually) by women. They symbolize tutelary deities responsible for the general welfare and health of the community. Prayers and small sacrifices are offered on one of the four days of the week, with major sacrifices and a festival annually. Most such shrines were originally housed in fine, decorated buildings (like that in page eight) or in even more elaborate compounds that resemble those of titled men.22730438_1940794885961644_6719023017716238361_n

Most of these shrines, by the 1990s, had fallen into disuse, as the vast majority of Igbo people are now Christians. Indeed, most figures such as these have been purchased (occasionally stolen) from their originating communities, and are in private or public art collections in the United States or Europe, so their “function” has changed radically.

Many thousands of Igbo art objects left Nigeria during and in the immediate aftermath of the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970) during which the secession of Igbo-dominated Biafra, which declared itself an independent nation, was put down by Federal Nigerian military force.22539746_1938287352879064_6545122692926451364_nThe most monumental Igbo figural sculptures are found in the mens’ houses that double as shrines to the founding ancestors (and most important deities) of Eastern Igbo, Cross River, communities (Abam, Ohafia, Abiriba). This impressive structure, named a Nigerian national monument in the 1950s, houses twenty-two life size (or larger) figures. The founding ancestor is at the center of the hierarchical group to the left, with his massive first wife standing on his shoulders. The supporting cast of characters extends the notion of family to include several warriors, an old man, a girl carrying a water pot, a handcuffed criminal, a hunter, masquerader, court messenger, several women, and a white man. As a whole, the group forms a kind of microcosm of community life. Most figures line the walls of the large room, which is used as a meeting place for male elders and mens’ society members who were the legislators, governors, and judges in pre-colonial times. The building was destroyed and the carvings looted, then exported, sometime during the 1970s.22780670_1940794299295036_7662147932518374659_n

The Okoroshi water spirit masquerade still (as of the mid-1980s) performs for six weeks at the height of the rainy season, even though it has become more secular and less powerful than it was earlier in the twentieth century. Maskers bless the ripening yam crop and prepare the community for the New Yam Festival, which occurs the day after these spirits have departed the village to return to their homes in the clouds.

An extensive and locally explicit dualism marks this masquerade. White or light colored masks are female, benign, and represent the order of the village, whereas dark ones are male, more or less dangerous, and associated with the mystery of the bush or forest. White masks are said to come down from cumulus clouds; dark, ugly masculine masks from gray rain clouds.22549757_1938355802872219_842062757829105600_n

The five to seven light Okoroshioma masks that emerge each season dance prettily, to lyrical music, before large crowds; they are essentially entertaining, and fine dancers are chosen to embody these spirits. In some cases, as here, they will be accompanied by contingents of male Okoroshi members dressed up as women.Umu Udo Integration have come to rebuild it all,and restore it all back again,because many Igbo Children from all over the World are now crying saying that Igbo culture and tradition is dying,esspecially Igbo Language,and that is truth,Christians are killing Indeginous peoples ways of life,Traditional Leaders are Christians,while in Traditional sit,many problems are facing Igbo people today,painful exit everywhere in Igbo Land,and only solution to all these is to support Umu Udo Integration to rebuild everything back,