Cannibalization as popular tradition in Igbo Masquerade performance
Research in African Literatures
University of Ibadan, Nigeria
Most of the critical strategies deployed in the investigation of the postcolonial condition of African cultures, such as hybridity and creolization, celebrate the emergence of a somewhat syncretist new culture. Notably, these strategies fail to sufficiently typify situations where one culture violently extracts cultural "pieces" from another for its own nourishment rather than the production of a new ethos. Describing this encounter as "cannibalization," this paper argues that African communities have always scrutinized their contact with foreign cultures, accepting, rejecting, and appropriating practices and artifacts according to their needs, while still maintaining an underlying loyalty to their indigenous processes. This "tradition" is exemplified in Igbo masquerade performance, which adopts an expropriatory strategy by which it subjects Euro-American cultural forms to a process of indigenization, stripping them of their original symbolic equipment and immersing them in entirely local ones. Thus, rather than producing a qualitatively new performance form, these pieces sustain the Igbo masquerade tradition. © 2010.