Categories: Ebira Lifestyle

Itokueta: Clothing for Corpse and Masquerades in Ebiraland

Overview of Clothing for Corpse and Masquerades in Ebiraland

According to Ebira culture, there are two realms in which humans can exist: ehe known as the realm of the living, and idaneku, known as the realm of the dead. At death, it is believed that the spirit or soul of the deceased transcends from ehe to idaneku, leaving behind a soulless body known as the corpse.

When a person dies or transcends from the world of the living to the world of the dead, their corpse is wrapped in clothes known as Itokueta which is used to deposit their body or corpse beneath the earth. Ita means cloth in Ebira and Oku or Eku means corpse/masquerade as the case may be. Hence, Itokueta may be translated to mean the cloth of the dead or the cloth of the masquerade. Although the Itokueta was initially used to describe clothing for the masqueraders who usually are striped like a man. The Ebira people divided the masquerades (eku) into numerous distinct types, each with its own specific attributes, connections with idaneku (netherworld or the real of the dead or realm of the masquerades), and circumstances that birthed its performance.

The term “ekuecici” translated as “low-level masquerades” or “rubbish masquerades” was used in Ebira to refer to masquerades and masqueraders that are small or not significant. They are dressed in a fabric or wooden mask on their face combined with the usual itokueta baggy sleeves and pants. Although this widely accepted attire of Ekuecici is just one out of the many choices available, it was nevertheless also widely believed in Ebiraland to be one of their founding tradition. In fact, it is believed that such a founding tradition allows people to express their creativity while still adhering to it in terms of the hues and textures of the fabric used as well as the actual type of mask worn by the masquerade. Every masquerade outfit was, therefore, used as a reference, whether itokueta was utilized in a particular exemplary way or not.

Other than ekuecici, there was also the ekuoba translated as the high-ranked masquerade or the upper-ranked masquerade. The relation between Ekuecici and Ekuoba is that of servant to master respectively. The ekuoba has the figure of an animated shroud in that it was made of a rather tall and huge tube that is of the red-patterned fabric of abinu called ubanito sourced from the Kabba region of Kogi state which is directly north of the city of Ebira. The Ubanito is a very thick fabric and the masquerader can only see through the fabric by peering through it.

Itokueta stood out from other Ebira textiles in more ways than its color which is white and indigo. These differences are significant in terms of their specific formal features. Firstly, the attire is weft in indigo and this distinguished them from regular clothing, and secondly, the two warp-stripe sequences made it obvious which gender each piece belonged.

Conclusion

There are different myths surrounding the color of itokueta. The first one is embedded in the saying that “a person is believed to be white first, before red, and vice-versa.” The red-to-white color in the proverb is based on the idea of the relationship between failure (red) and success (white). The second myth is around the black color (including indigo dye) can be related to many different things such as the unappealing sight of soot on a blacksmith’s face during the forging process and the dangers of the night as a period for supernatural activities of masquerading and witchcraft. In fact, in Ebiraland, we believe that the midnight belonged to the witches or terrestrial mothers dressed in black or red robe.

Thanks for reading!

Prime

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