From Ritual to Mercantile Art: A Study of the Ikeji Masquerade Performance of Arondizuogu


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships


Arts and Theatre Arts


The creative potentials of myths and oral performances in African societies have not always received the requisite attention from scholars of performance studies in Africa. Since man is today trying to retrace his footsteps, especially in the area of his irresponsible attitude towards the wisdom of the ancients, the challenge for this study is to examine and unravel the journey of a traditional myth/ritual performance from a purely religious obligation to recreational drama and mercantile art. Since vanishing traditions deserve a study of their decline, transformation, and revival, Schechner’s (2002) contention—that rituals and folk performances are not just deposit vaults for cultural heritages but could be capable of engendering fresh insights into a people’s way of life—deserves our support. Harrison’s (1913) postulation that “when ritual wanes, art waxes” is thus revalidated for folklore theory. Against this background, the study frames the Ikeji Masquerade Festival of Arondizuogu as an example of a ritual that has suffered violence on account of the advent of the foreign religions of Christianity and Islam but which, out of sheer resilience, is regenerating into commercial art and agent of tourism.