- Igbo art
Igbo art is any body of visual art originating from the
Igbo people. The Igbo produce a wide variety of art including traditional figures, masks, artifacts and textiles, plus works in metals such as bronze. Artworks form the Igbo have been found from as early as 9th Centurywith the bronze artifacts found at Igbo Ukwu.
Agbogho mmuo, or Maiden Spirit masquerades perform annually during the dry season in the Nri-Awka area of northern
Igboland. At these performances men dance as adolescent girls, miming and exaggerating the girls beauty and comportment. The performance is also accompanied by musicians who sing tributes to both real and spirit maidens. The following are examples of quotes that may be heard during a performance : Mmanwusi n’igwe: The masked spirit from the sky
Udemu na lenu: My fame is potent
These masks exaggerate the ideal features Igbo people have for the smallness of a young girl’s features while the whiteness of her complexion which is a spirit color likened to “the purity of white chalk,” a substance used for ritually marking the body in both West Africa and the
African Diaspora. The white pigment also serves as a ground for the elaborate uli decorations painted on Igbo women’s skin. Some maiden spirit masks have elaborate coiffeurs, embellished with representations of hair combs, and other objects, modeled after late 19th Centuryceremonial hairstyles. [ [http://www.carlos.emory.edu/helmet-mask Maiden Spirit (Agbogho Mmuo) Helmet Mask | Michael C. Carlos Museum ] ]
Alice Apley says:"It is possible that the inhabitants of
Igbo Ukwuhad a metalworking art that flourished as early as the ninth century (though this date remains controversial). Three sites have been excavated, revealing hundreds of ritual vessels and regalia castings of bronze or leaded bronze that are among the most inventive and technically accomplished bronzes ever made. The people of Igbo-Ukwu, ancestors of present-day Igbo, were the earliest smithersof copper and its alloys in West Africa, working the metal through hammering, bending, twisting, and incising. They are likely among the earliest groups of West Africans to employ the lost-wax casting techniques in the production of bronze sculptures. Oddly, evidence suggests that their metalworking repertory was limited and Igbo smiths were not familiar with techniques such as raising, soldering, riveting, and wire making, though these techniques were used elsewhere on the continent.
"Uli" is the name given to the traditional designs drawn by the
Igbo peopleof Nigeria.
"Uli" drawings are strongly
linear and lack perspective; they do, however, balance positive and negative space. Designs are frequently asymmetrical, and are often painted spontaneously. "Uli" generally is not sacred, apart from those images painted on the walls of shrines and created in conjunction with some community rituals.
The drawing of "uli" was once practiced throughout most of
Igboland, although by 1970 it had lost much of its popularity, and was being kept alive by a handful of contemporary artists. It was usually practiced by women, who would decorate each other's bodies with dark dyes to prepare for village events, such as marriage, title taking, and funerals; designs would sometimes be produced for the most important market days as well. Designs would last about a week. [http://africa.si.edu/exhibits/uli.htm]
* [http://mccoy.lib.siu.edu/jmccall/jones/ GI Jones Photographic Archive of southeastern Nigeria]
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