When and where I was born, masquerades were dreaded by kids, especially when they heard the stories told about these things. This was not a place with mud houses and thatch, but a city in the Nigerian sense, and masquerades were prominent in the -ember months.
I was so scared of masquerades that I would hide under the bed when I heard their drumming even when they were far off. We were told they were not humans, but spirits…or at least possessed persons.
When I grew up and moved, their fear tamed in my mind and I longed to see what became colorful reminders of culture and southern year-ends.
I had known many types over many years. I will spare you the names and describe them thus: the one that flogged, the one that is towed, the cane-less sprinter, children’s ‘tinkoriko’, the lion, the tortoise, the mirrored wild box, the ram…and lastly, the terrible-looking Adam who wears nothing more than charcoal and a few leaves, wandering alone as if from the Garden of Eden, just after Sin happened.
In Lagos, I had the dream of seeing three white Eyo masquerades, resembling the statues that welcomed me to this strange city. After three years of searching, I have only seen the ugly Egungun masquerade, mask-coo-raiding, reflecting one spirit of Lagos: begging.
In Lagos everyone begs, even these ‘spirits’. They wear masks, block pedestrians at bus stops, coo by talking in soft voices, and raid the pockets of the fearful with their cheap intimidation.
I devised a means to evade them by wearing a mask(a stern frown on my face)…for an Ibibio proverb says ‘even the masquerade has the stern-faced’
The truth is, we Lagosians are not masquerades, but mask-coo-raids. We don’t parade ourselves by displaying who we truly are for everyone to see; but if we can, we rob life and take from it what we need to survive.
#poke life if you can
(by Effiong Samuel. Culled from my journal, EKOes, vol 2.)