n African Performance Review - Masks and symbols in masquerade performances among the Tiv of Central Nigeria

Volume 2, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1753-5964


Africa as a vast continent is made up of many countries whose arts come in different forms. These different arts include a theatre tradition which manifests itself in different parts of Africa through festivals, rituals, marriages, naming, initiation ceremonies, folklore and masquerade performances. These festive theatres represent the broad context of traditional African theatre. The African concept of theatre itself attracts and recognizes the function and boundary that separates the real and the imaginary. However, traditional African arts are used by communities and cultural groups to embellish their domestic and public (social life) and gatherings. For the Tiv, art is a way of life and is evident in social, political and religious spheres of life. Tiv art is mostly realised through the oral tradition. This paper establishes the meaning and links between masks and masquerade performances with emphasis on Tiv masquerade performance, while drawing attention to Tiv history, traditions, worldview, beliefs and creativity. A semiotics of the face masks would be explored to tease out the rationale and knowledge of the Tiv; the paper would also show what obtained in the past, and how masks are presently perceived by and in the lives of the people.

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