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Knowing 'ekpo Masquerade'also Known As 'calabar Yansh' - Culture - Nairaland

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Knowing 'ekpo Masquerade'also Known As 'calabar Yansh' by ajuksobi: 8:54pm On Jan 07

Ajukura, Fidelis O
7th January, 2024

How many of you still remember Ekpo Masquerade popularly known as 'Calabar Yansh' in Port Harcourt? Before I proceed, it is important to understand the origin and purpose of the Ekpo Masquerade. Ekpo is a cultural society that is found in the Ibibio and Annang parts of present day Akwa Ibom State. Ekpo is built around the belief in life after death; it focuses on spirits of departed ancestors that have returned to the land of the living in masquerade form to participate in the communal festivities of their kinsmen.

Ekpo originated from Arochukwu, an Igbo community that share common boundary with Akwa Ibom. In Arochukwu, there are different grades of Ekpo.

Ekpo does not collect money with its own hands because it is believed that it will carry the money to the land of the dead. For this reason, money is collected on its behalf by any member of the society that is assigned to do so. Ekpo does not see women. This is why women run away wherever Ekpo is performing.

Back in the days in Port Harcourt, Ekpo Masquerade was very prominent. The reason for this was the high population of Cross Riverians in the metropolitan city of Port Harcourt. In those days, Cross River State was the home State of the Ibibios and Annangs. In order words, before Akwa Ibom State was carved out from Cross River State, the Ibibios and Annangs had Calabar as their State capital. For this reason, all of them were known and referred to as 'Calabar people'.

Owing to the high population of these Calabar people in Port Harcourt especially in the suburbs, it became customary for them to, during festive periods such as; Easter, Christmas, New Year, Independence Day etc to display their Ekpo Masquerade. Because of the scary look of the masquerade coupled with the charcoal painted all over the masquerade's body and its open or exposed buttocks, children began to call it 'Calabar Yansh'. Over time, this name gained prominence such that it displaced the original name - Ekpo. Till date, not many people in Port Harcourt know that the original name of the masquerade is Ekpo.

Calabar Yansh, in those days used to be an interesting masquerade. Although it pursues women and children yet, it was a darling of the people especially children. Calabar Yansh can smear somebody's cloth with charcoal if offended.

As the masquerades and their members move about, they're followed by a multitude of children who often taunted the masquerades by calling them names with the intention to provoke them so that the masquerade can give them (the children) a hot chase. Sometimes, the masquerades actually lose their cool and pursue the children. Some children who could not run fast enough end up receiving some strokes of the masquerade's long canes.

As the masquerades move about, they often stopped by in compounds where their members reside to freshen up. While the masquerades are inside cooling off, the entire neighborhood is besieged by children who are anxious to see the masquerades. In this regard, children followed the masquerades to old Port Harcourt township from Diobu where some of them miss their way and unable to return back home. On several occasion, announcements of these (missing) children have been made in radio and television houses.

Calabar Yansh was a regular masquerade in Port Harcourt that many looked forward to. I do not know if Calabar Yansh is still active as it used to back in our growing up days.

Re: Knowing 'ekpo Masquerade'also Known As 'calabar Yansh' by drmuchin: 8:59pm On Jan 07
Scary ASF

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