August 6, 2016

All About Animal Kingdom Lodge's African Ijele Mask

We always enjoy meandering through the Jambo House at Animal Kingdom Lodge. 
There are more than 500 African artifacts on display throughout the resort. 
It’s considered North America’s largest collection of African art!

One particular item that is especially intriguing is the huge, colorful sculpture 
at the back of the lobby, near the entrance to the Arusha Savannah. 
It’s called an ijele, and believe it or not, is actually a mask. 
Yes, it’s a 16’ high, 240 pound mask.

An adolescent boy is chosen to wear the mask, or headdress.
He must excel in a number of challenges of strength and skill
before his is given this high honor in the community.

An excellent example of the Igbo culture in Nigeria, the Ijele Masquerade 
originated centuries ago and is known as the King of Masquerades. 
An elaborate dance is performed as the Ijele parades through the village.
This is a rare event that only occurs every 10 to 25 years 
at times of festivals, important celebrations, burial ceremonies, 
and during dry seasons to call forth fertility and a plentiful harvest. 

The ijele takes several months to construct.
It’s decorated with figurines that signify various aspects of life. 
There are trees, animals and festive tassels.

The ijele has an upper and lower segment, joined by a large python for royalty. 

Patterned fabrics are used in vivid colors, especially yellow, red and black. 

A horse is often included, representing greatness and majesty.

Here are photos from the web, showing the ijele in action.

If you happen to visit the Animal Kingdom Lodge, be sure to find the ijele!

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