Anunebe: The Masquerade as reported by Okoroji Chidiebere Alexander

The moment is almost here as people in the village are all dressed to watch the great Anunebe perform in the village square, one occasion that is performed once in a year, and this makes the event one of the greatest anticipated events in Ibeme, Isiala-Mbano, a small village in Imo State, Eastern part of Nigeria. The Villagers are eager, anxious and nervous to welcome the Great Anunebe to the village square where all the displays, dramas and performances will be carried out. Anunebe is a godlike Masquerade. He is very tall— spiritually taller than the Iroko tree. With his deified attire, with a stag of bull around his head, in a guise to give way for the ways of the gods, and with a cloak which conceals; a disguise or pretext of his person and with a beautiful artifice with all sorts of symbol— that of a Serpents, a red Python; a very strange one, and skulls of human heads; heads of Great Warriors of the land “The Ikembas” (those who died in the battle field), not “The Efulefus” (those that ran away). And with all manners of charms and musical instruments, that makes sonorous sounds when he jump or shakes his body. He is invisible, as one can’t identify the person behind the Masquerade. It was an arcane knowledge known to few. Although, rumor holds it that; those behind the Masquerade are one of the Great Idibias’ (Herbalist/ Chief Priest), one that is very close to the oracle and the gods of the land. Prophecy holds it that, anyone behind the Masquerade is a spirit that bring the people closer to the gods and their ways—as the person won’t be able to control himself— the gods will be in possession of the person. That fateful day, on Afor Market day, the Village Elders are all prepared wearing their “Chieftaincy and titled red and black caps and an Aguiye Attire”, with the faces of Tiger and Lion displayed on it. While the Women, especially the Ezinnes, are also prepared in their colourfully blazing uniform, “the blouse and Joge”. The youth: the boys and the girls are also prepared as they dressed in their respective native attire; while the boys mimics the men, the girls do same with the women. Here comes the drummers; the Ogene boys, the Ocha boys and the Ofikpo boys. We also have the Wondrous Dancers, the Omalicha girls, Odum girls and Ocherigo girls. As they beat the drums proficiently while the Dancers dances to Entertain everyone, the Young, and the Elderly especially the women among them; were filled with joy and happiness as they remembered their youthful days, how awesome their dancing styles, the shaking of the waists was. The men too, they remembered how they arouse their audience by climbing the trees while chanting, the flexing of muscles to the amusement of the beautiful girls who admires them. Everyone stood still as they welcome the Great Anunebe, who only comes in when the sun is down. The chants, the grunts, the chunters, while the man behind the flute melt the chord with his melody. Everyone is energized and invigorated; the welcoming displays is appreciated by the Elders, as the Oyesiala (The head of land) pave way for the Great Anunebe to enter the scene as he uses Dry Gin to pray and blessed the land where he will be performing. Although, the rituals behind the scene has been completed. The demands actualized! Twelve heads of Guinea fowl, four heads of white native Goats, A Python’s tongue, two eyes of a crocodile, the urine of seven virgins and a Lion’s blood. Has he enters, everyone becomes scared and frightened, ” What a mighty creature of a Masquerade”. He bends out from the hut shrine where he was, with his chanter who sings all manners of praise to him while he walks majestically to the field that’d been decorated with all sorts of creatures, dead tortoise, vultures, bats…., before he enters the field, he uses his back and walks slowly while taking a bow to recognise the goddess of the earth “Ani” when he gets there; he raises his head up, “Wow” as it marvels the crowd. He’s bodily and bossily built. “A Giant of a Masquerade” Very huge and Tall! A dwarf have to be careful not to loss his head. One can’t see the eyes but can hear his strange voices with his crafted, red painted Tiger head, a very big one. He chanted and invoked the presence of the gods as he speaks in strange language only those gifted by the gods can be able to comprehend. He recognises everyone as he greets them. Now the moment everyone has been waiting for, the magical dance. He change his steps severally, raises is head, shakes his body and gave the audience a spectacular display of a dance as all became speechless and astonished, “More than what one bargain for”. That golden moment that comes once in a blue moon. It seems the gods as posses those beating the drum, as they were doing it diligently. The style and manner is totally different. The Great Anunebe danced, and danced and danced in a godlike to the amusement of those that came. Some were even crying, while others were dancing along. That moment changed Chike’s and Obi’s life, has they appreciated their culture and heritage more!

Okoroji Chidiebere Alexander is a Business Education and Business Administration graduate of UNN and OOU. He authored: The Perfect me, My Village is now a Town, The Grid, The Engrieved and Aberration.

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