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Cultural Dances of Igbo People and Bright Attires

Cultural Dances of Igbo People and Bright Attires

In Africa there are many ethnic groups and some are more popular than others. These groups have different languages, way of life, and are located all over the mother land. One of the largest and most popular ethnic groups or tribes in Nigeria is the Igbo tribe. The Igbo people reside in southeastern and south-central Nigeria. When one speaks about the culture of a tribe, interest is in the art, food, music, language, and even the cultural dance forms, if any. Today we will be looking at the Igbo cultural dance attire, to learn more, continue reading this article.

Igbo Cultural Dance Attire

What is Igbo cultural dance?

Dance is a universal form of expression. The Igbo people perform dances for a myriad of different reasons. They also have many different types of cultural dances, some are performed by a specific gender or skilled persons. Such dances are not only performed to express happiness but as an indication of the following:

● readiness for marriage when performed in front of possible matches.

● spiritual reasons.

● exercise.

● welcoming the return of soldiers who had dedicated their lives to serve and protect their country and citizens.

The Igbo cultural dance, if you pay close attention, usually depicts a story. You can see different emotions being portrayed, you may see happiness, grief, appreciation, strength, bravery, love etc. Despite the change in time and countless influences faced, Igbos still maintain and preserve their heritage and identity.

Igbo Cultural Dance

Types of Igbo cultural dance and cultural dance attire

Popular dances among the Igbo tribe are as follows:

1. Atilogwu

The word Atilogwu means "is this magic?". It is considered as an acrobatic dance. This kind of Igbo dance is fast and spirited. Its movement is centered around aerobatics such as jumping, flipping, rolling, foot stomping etc. It is performed by young men and women not only for entertainment purposes but to keep them in shape and occupy their time so that they will stay away from trouble. This dance requires vigorous training before it is presented to the public at festivals and other celebratory occasions. After its approval, it will be performed.

The costume worn for Atilogwu is vibrant, see the photo before for a visual representation.

Atilogwu cultural dance attire

Igbo, Atilogwu cultural dance attire

2. Ekeleke

Another stilt dancing masquerade is performed at ceremonies like burials. See the photo below for a representation of how they are dressed while performing.

Ekeleke cultural dance attire

Igbo, Ekeleke cultural dance attire

3. Ekpe

This dance is a kind of masquerade in which young men display and boast great bravery and strength in the face of danger. They are typically dressed like the individuals seen in the photo below.

Ekpe cultural dance attire

Igbo, Ekpe cultural dance attire

4. Ese (funeral dance)

This dance has two versions: the ‘Ese-Ike’ and 'Esa-Ala'. The Ese-Ike is performed to celebrate the life of a man who has accomplished a lot throughout his lifetime on an hoisted platform. The ‘Ese-Ala’ celebrates the life of a woman who has accomplished a lot throughout her lifetime on a grounded level, instruments played here includes the drums and xylophones.

5. Igba Ndi Eze

Commonly called the dance for the kings, Igba Ndi Eze is used to usher kings, titled men and women into special occasions. Just have a look at the attires used for this kind of cultural dance.

Igba Ndi Eze

Above men can be seen playing drums, dancing to Igba Ndi Eze

Two women can be seen being ushered by dancers of Igba Ndi Eze

Here two women can be seen being ushered by dancers of Igba Ndi Eze

6. Izaga

For the Izaga cultural attire, white is worn and the individual carries and rings a bell to announce its manifestation. It also includes a stilt masquerade.

7. Igede

Igede, sometimes called the royal dance is a traditional dance group for the Kings and wealthy people of Igbo land.

8. Ijele

Ijele is often called the king's masquerade. It is usually accompanied and preceded by other small masquerades in Igbo celebratory events. The photo below illustrates perfectly how the Ijele cultural attire looks.

Ijele Cultural Dance Attire

Colorful Ijele masquerade

9. Ikpirikpi-Ogu

Also called the war dance, this is performed to welcome soldiers home from tribal wars. Today it symbolizes fearlessness and courage of an Igbo tribe and its victory. As you can see from the pictures below, the attire for this cultural dance is minimal and its main element is a special cap.

Cultural dance of Ikpirikpi-Ogu

Cultural dancers of Ikpirikpi-Ogu


Ikpirikpi-Ogu dance

10. Mmanwu

This is another kind of masquerade dance that was used to protect divine status and to deliver discernment or retribution to powerful people besides the masquerades. The masquerades were excluded because they were unobtainable and thought to be spirits, people feared them.

Igbo Cultural Dance Attire

11. Nkwa Umu-Agbogho

Also called the "Maiden dance", this dance is popular among and performed by a caucus of young women. Nkwa Umu-Agbogho was performed in a manner in which they moved their waist and chest seductively to attract male admirers. They also believe that the dance would help young girls to conserve their bodies and abstain from intimate relationships before marriage by keeping their mind and body busy.

Igbo cultural dance Nkwa Umu-Agbogho

Nkwa Umu-Agbogho dance attire

12. Okonko

The performance of this dance marks the beginning of the cascading and/or the sowing season. Such a ceremony demonstrates control and unity of community and is of great importance.

Mammy Wata

Okonko dance attire in which the masquerade dancer is representing Mammy Wata

13. Okorosha

Okorosha is said to be the masquerade ceremonial highlight of towns like Amauju. Such a dance demonstrates the cultural and race-related appreciation of its people. It also brings back individuals who originated from Amauju and its surrounding areas.

Okorosha Cultural Dance Attire

Igbo, Okorosha Cultural Dance Attire

14. Omuru-onwa and Agbacha-Ekuru nwa

Both these dances were enjoyed and performed by married women and new mothers. Such a dance not only for fun but also as a form of exercise to lose weight, baby fat and to keep fit.

Omuru-onwa and Agbacha-Ekuru Nwa

This woman is dressed in Omuru-onwa and Agbacha-Ekuru Nwa, Igbo tradition cultural dance attire

I hope this article was very informative for you as I tried my best to cover and give visual representations of some popular Igbo cultural dance attires. If you would like to know more or even share some information, leave a comment below!

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Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka
Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka

Chuka is an experienced certified web developer with an extensive background in computer science and 18+ years in web design &development. His previous experience ranges from redesigning existing website to solving complex technical problems with object-oriented programming. Very experienced with Microsoft SQL Server, PHP and advanced JavaScript. He loves to travel and watch movies.

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