Ekpe - Prestigious Masquerade

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Ekpe (Literally, Lion) is a traditional dance cult found mainly in Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria. However this cult is also found in Oron, Mbo, Urue-Offong Oruko, Eket, Uruan local government areas in Akwa Ibom state, Nigeria. Members of this sacred cult are known as protectors of the chief. They hold dance festivals at the end of every year (Ukabade Isua) in which is often a walk dance from a certain starting point to the palace of the chief. The chief and a senior member of the cult would perform libations and honour the founding fathers by calling out their names after the expression "Oye Bari Bari... ". It is unclear what the title means but in the same process the chief calls names of places in which the cults dwell.

The most noticeable element of the Ekpe cult artform is the masquerade itself which is designed originally red and black but also (though rarely in other colours) with a big round glituans worn at the upper body section to represent the mane of a lion. The wearers of the masquerade are only known to the cult members. The masquerade holds a bunch of leaves in the left hand and a long staff in the right. The dance includes the spin (Iyiro). Although the Ekpe cult has different factions, they all communicate in one language called nsibidi. If one group comes face to face with another group on the street. One must prove its originality by giving accurate response to nsibidi (usually a non verbal riddle). If the other group gives a the correct non-verbal answer, it validates its genuinness and the groups can move on peacefully.

Added on 19 May, 2017 Culture Stories
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