Adamma: The Fairest Of Them All
Masquerading is one culture that has stood the test of time surviving western influence.
Masquerading practice is no stranger to Nigerian culture and Igboland. In Igboland, masquerading is a high ranking cultural norm embedded in its practices, such as rites of passage for young men.
Masquerades do not just exist in a void in these societies but play a significant role. In Igboland, masquerades are functional as custodians of traditional laws ensuring peace and resolving conflicts.
Asides from fostering law and order, they also take social roles in society where masquerading is used as a source of entertainment at ceremonial events like the New Yam festivals, coronations and filling the entertainment gap in such societies.
This is where Adamma masquerade comes in. Adamma is the maiden masquerade in Igboland and can be described as a moving theatre group, as she is often accompanied by people who handle the music.
Unlike the Masquerade cult that is made up of adults in Igboland and involves secret oaths, the Adamma masquerade takes no path known in spirituality as the Mmuo, rather flourishes in entertainment. The Adamma maiden spirits customarily emerge in village festivities in renditions that variously encompass dance and narrative.
Just as the emergence of drama and theatre is traced to religious practices, the same can be said of Adamma masquerade, going where it is needed and spreading its culture to all who are ready to embrace it.
As the name suggests, Adamma means ‘‘fine girl’’ with Ada being the first daughter and mma ‘‘beauty’’.
As such, Adamma is a beautiful masquerade who is usually ‘elegantly’ dressed with a pale face that speaks of her ghostly element. Similar to the masquerade cult, the Adamma masquerade and its theatre are run by men.
Adamma masquerade is not a universal Igbo practice, but one that has its origins from the people of Enugu state, among the Udi/Ngwo indigenes, which has then been adopted by a few others.
Adamma masquerade is an art form. Hence, Adamma masquerade to the people of this region is used as a traditional theatre as it is the mode of artistic expression of the people.
Asking Adamma, “mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” does not yield other results as no one flashes in the mirror but herself as she is the “maiden of beauty”.
Adamma masquerade, although dying in culture, has an outstanding collection of dance moves and great leg work that is next to none. Famous for her ‘yanga’ aura, she effortlessly moves her waist to the rhythmic sounds of the Oghene and the beating drums.
In exploring the gender viewpoint, Adamma struts gracefully showing off femininity in all manners, such as her catwalk, flicking her hair, and primarily the dexterity of her hip and leg movement.
Anywhere the Adamma masquerade is, it is a festival of dance and pure entertainment as this maiden spirit worn by a man mesmerises the audience. Usually, with the Adamma masquerade, they are two in number, adding to value when they showcase their acrobatic and energised dance moves in a brawl.
Adamma masquerade is a culture of a fraction of people in Igbo land that emanated from religious practice, as with many other forms of drama and theatre that are now used as an artistic expression.
Adamma might arguably be going extinct because perhaps it lacks deep spirituality in Igbo worldview and patronage.