Categories: Ebira Traditions

Significance of Ekuoba Masquerade in Ebiraland


Ekuoba is a renowned herald masquerade in the tradition and festival history of Ebiraland. “Eku” means “ancestral spirit or masquerade” and “Oba” means “master or king”. Hence, Ekuoba can simply be used to imply “noble masquerade” or “royalty masquerade.” The Ekuoba masquerade has a unique appearance that sets it apart from the other masquerades. The Ekuboba masquerade has the ability to grow taller or shorter. The masquerade also lacks arms; therefore, they wear armless itokueta (masquerade clothing) made of a unique cotton fabric called ubanito. Talking about the significance of Ekuoba masquerade will be incomplete without talking about its origin. Therefore, we will be talking about how Ekuoba came to be in the tradition of Ebira people and its significance in Ebiraland.

Origin of Ekuoba Masquerade

Ekuoba, along with Ekuecici, is thought to be the first masquerade to appear in the history of Ebiraland. Ekuecici can be interpreted as Eku (ancestral spirit or masquerade) and ecici (dirt or filt), suggesting that it refers to a masquerade of dirt. Ekuoba and ekuecici are high-level and low-level masquerades respectively. Ekuoba is a special royal masquerade, and it is usually accompanied by the ekuecici wherever it goes. The responsibility of the ekuecici is to remove debris and barriers or obstructions from the path of the ekuoba. The armlessness of ekuoba may be a logical explanation, but in Ebiraland, the ekuecici is known to be Ekuoba’s servant and is compelled to obey its orders by nature.

There is a folktale about the origin of Ekuoba and the ekuoba-ekuecici relationship that is associated with the tale of two brothers, Obaji and Ododo. Obaji is the eldest brother and according to tradition, younger ones must always follow the will and instructions of the older ones. As a result, Ododo feels as though he is perpetually living in his older brother’s shadow because he is compelled to always do the bidding of his brother. Ododo was not pleased about this. Because he couldn’t force anyone to do what he wanted, he felt cheated and wished he could at least make his brother work for him one day so he could understand how it felt. His brother should feel the same way, he thought.

One day, an unfortunate incident happened, Obaji became seriously ill and it was obvious he would pass away. Knowing about the health status of his brother, Ododo felt disappointed. Before his brother’s demise, Ododo already killed himself. This was followed by the death of Obaji, the older brother A burial ceremony was held the next day, and on that day, the people present saw a mysterious being without arms dressed in a strange costume, emerge from where Ododo was buried and another with arms, emerge from where Obaji was buried. The people called these creatures Eku and they believed it to be the spirit of Ododo and Obaji respectively. The eku with arms was compelled to listen to the commands of the eku with arms. Since Ododo died before Obaji, the people thought that Ododo is now older than Obaji in the realm of the dead which is why his masquerade is able to command the masquerade of Obaji. People named Obaji’s masquerade, Ekuecici, and Ododo’s masquerade, Ekuoba. And since then, Ekuecici has been serving Ekuoba.

Significance of Ekuoba in Ebiraland

In Ebiraland, the Ekuoba is considered a royal masquerade that comes out to perform prior to the coronation of any chieftaincy position or royal position. Ekuoba is a heralding masquerade. It comes prior to the commencement of major festivals such as Ekuechi and Echane. Upon coming out, it performs and notifies people to expect the commencement of a certain festival. It also tells the people of when the festival is likely to come up and issues warning to the people if necessary. In Ebiraland, once the Ekuoba comes out to make a performance, it is a sign that an important event is about to happen.

The End!

Thanks for reading.


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