FUNCTIONS AND RELEVANCE OF COSTUME IN NGWAS EKPE FESTIVAL

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RESEARCH PROJECT TOPIC ON  FUNCTIONS AND RELEVANCE OF COSTUME IN NGWAS EKPE FESTIVAL

CHAPTER TWO
LITERATURE REVIEW
2.0 INTRODUCTION
Nigeria offers variety of festivals with sound and rich cultural heritage. The evidences of these festivals are found in all the geo-political zones in the country which serves as veritable instruments of national integration, peaceful co-existence and cultural possibilities. A number of cultural activities exist in Nigeria, which create unique creative spaces for producers of the arts as well as conducive interactive spaces for tourists and connoisseurs. Many of these cultural activities have been in practice from time and have given the country an acclaim as being culturally super-active. The cultural activities in Cross River State are particularly outstanding from those in many other states of the federation as they showcase diverse creative packages. The state is renowned for its festivals of songs, dances and masquerades at coronation, marriage, burial, naming, planting and harvesting ceremonies. Cross River State is also popular for its hospitality and its culinary productivity – many Nigerians would want to have a taste of ‘Calabar’ food. Tourists also like to visit the numerous cultural and historical sites in Cross River State. While these ceremonies, tourism potentialities and locations have ever been present with the people of Cross River State in Nigeria, not much was done to formalize and organize their presentation to diverse international audiences until the year 1999. The administration of Donald Duke at the inception of Nigeria’s 4th democratic era evolved a dynamic policy to develop the tourism sub-sector as an area of alternative revenue for the state. Part of the plan was to develop a rich tourism calendar to accommodate more (existing) cultural events and in some cases rebrand and repackage them for better appeal. The plan was also to accommodate new events that would appeal to the emerging consumerist culture of the 21st century. So, in all parts of the state there are cultural festivals and artistic practices that appeal to diverse audiences. There is mountain tourism and recreation in the mountainous region of Obudu; there are new yam festivals in the agricultural belt; maiden outing ceremonies, water sports and other art-related events in many communities of the state.             
2.1 THE CONCEPT OF COSTUME
Costume is part of actors’ apparatus. It refers to all clothing an individual performing wears in a show, festival or movie.  In a broader sense, costume can be applied in many kinds of performance or media like drama and dance. The orchestra players wearing white shirt and black suit to perform in the concert hall, they are also wearing ‘costumes Theatre, television and movie are the medium often showing costume. Indeed, costume is not garment merely. Jeffrey Kurland (2004), the governor of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, claims that “costume dominate the foreground action throughout a film, shaping the characters and thus helping to move the story forward with what one could describe as the visual narratives”. This explanation fulfills the basic definition of costume. Everything wears by the actor will count on costume? This is another issue, to distinguish the accessories belongs to props or wardrobe is quite confused. Nevertheless, costume designer is often much more tend to practical-oriented. The main purpose of wearing costume is to shape and to enhance the character. Costume is not meant to cloth. Unlikely to fashion, costume is not need expensive to show how glamorous or fabulous of the people who wear it. Costume is needed to have such glamorous feeling on screen but it could cost not much. This explains the apparent difference among both of them. Fashion works on our three-dimensional world but costume is not; film Costume visualizes the actor and helps them to create their character. There are three key qualities in designing the film costume. Color shows the mood and taste; texture shows the economic status; and style shows personality and occupation. Audience get signal from the costume by the shape and color that can be revealed as welcomed or feared. A good costume is able to show the mentality ofthe character.
2.1.1 Functions of Costume
The significance of costume is to enhance the character in movie and provide visual stimuli to the audience. Essentially, a costume designer provides design concept and also gives advice on an entire appearance in a professional manner. Costume is able to tell audience about the character, their relationship with others, their age and place, their perception of themselves and the development and transformation of the scenes. As a visual element display to the audience, costume expresses the cultural and historical authenticity that cannot be mistaken The costume reveals the background of the character by different scenes. Basically, the film costume can be divided into four functions including as practical, as reconstruction, as organization and as symbolization.   Costume provides practical function like we wear clothes as usual. It is understandable that actor use to wear clothes they feel comfortable while filming. Costume can be changed in order to implement its practical function. Firstly, using supplements like corset or shoulder pad can change the original figure of the actor. For instance, the European dress in the eighteenth century constructed with farthingale to show the different figure and which implicate wealth and higher social status. The dress gives out the signal of the social position.   Secondly, the visually changes of the costume can be influenced by the application of color, Color act as a technique of illusions, dark color tone cause contracted affection while light color tone cause expanded affection. And there are some unique indications for every color like black associate death or blue associate cool. The applications of color reflect the mentality of the wearer at that scene. Furthermore, the textures of the fabric affect the overall feeling of the character. Soften fabric like chiffon or silk shows sense of light and smoothness. On the contrary, stiff fabric like denim or buckram shows the feeling of inflexible and rigid.   Reconstruction is another function applied on costume; each movie has its own background and characteristic. Film costume as the clothing wears by the actor where implications can be founded. At first, the significance of costume is to display the scene. The style, color and details of costume are able to demonstrate the space, season, nation, country, religion, and the marital status. The actor wear a rainy coat backs from the street means there is raining outside. The scene can be performed without lines and background but by the costume. Also, costume reveals the social position like the occupation and wealth of the character. Policeman wears the police uniform to show the discipline; a rich man wears richly bejeweled to show wealth; a monk wears Buddhist monks garment to show religious faithful. Besides, costume can be functioned as a signal of changes in a character’s status. In Spider-man (Sam Raimi, 2002) where Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is a coward boy who wore casual shirt and jeans, and his role changed by the implications of the spider-man uniform, In The Words (Peter Chan,2007) Er-Hu (Andy Lau) dressed damaged and dirty cloth since he is a leader of bandit army that steals food to survive; but he wore a helmet and armor since his status changed to a general. At the latter, he dressed up frustrated since his blooded brother assassinated him. These two cases tell the audience how costume brings out the alternation of the characters’ status. Furthermore, costume is not merely function as reconstruct the scene and the status; it also reveals the intrinsic mindset of the character. The style and color of the cloth comprise the characterization. A character wears a three-piece suit with hat; we assume a role of traditional English gentleman; for the same mechanism a character wears tattered cloth, and an impoverished role is expected. To organize all roles in film, main cast and side cast will be separated by costume in extent to reinforce the significance of the leading role. The perceptions of costume distinguish the role who is more important and who is less. Film costume protrudes the main cast by using contrasting color or unusual style to separate from the crowd.   Costume possesses the function as symbolization, Street (2001) claims film scholar study the symbolic role of costume is possible to apply in a particular narrative construction. The noble dresses showing in Marie Antoinette (WS. Van Dyke, 1938) associate the audience to aristocrat. The lofty appearance implies authority. To a large extent, costume is capable function as well as showing the social role in film. Nowadays, abstract costumes often used in the science fiction in contemporary film, it reveals symbolic meanings from the movie. The symbolize function embellish the mood of the movie and provide space to the audience for association bet seen the character and story, Film costume is able to create different mood for the scenes depending on the directors’ choice.
2.2 A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE NGWAS EKPE FESTIVAL
The Ekpe festival is said to originate from the Cross River area from the Qua or related peoples (Ogbuji, 2007). Ekpe spread to what is now the Southwest province of Cameroon and other areas and spread west towards what is now Abia and parts of Imo and Ebonyi state, largely due to the old Aro Confederacy. ‘Ekpe’ means leopard and the many masquerades across the Bight of Biafra region, although differing in shapes and size, usually mimic the movements of the leopard. Ekpe is not confined to a religion or ethnic group. It was originally used as a way of enforcing laws. Ekpe is usually only used for festivals now although many people are still initiated into the society. Ekpe is strictly for men only and there are masquerades that women are barred from seeing, along with non Ekpe members. From parts of Imo State to the Southwest province of Cameroon, Ekpe is celebrated in different communities around December, the styles of music and masquerade varying.          
2.2.1 The Ekpe Masquerade
This masquerade is a wonderful example of African art. It originates from the Efiks who are also known as the in Cross River State of Nigeria. This hand crafted representation of the Ekpe masquerade can only be found in the remote villages and are carefully handcrafted by the villagers using dyed raffia and wool to create a true representation of the masquerade. This particular masquerade is steeped with cultural wealth and probably goes back to the time of the founding fathers. The Ekpe Masquerade is used in ceremonies, songs, dances and is usually accompanied by cultural drama. These masquerades also come out during chieftaincy coronations, seasonal celebrations and other important events. It is an important cultural event in the life of the Efiks and its roots are deep in traditional religion. The Ekpe Masquerade, the folklores (known as Ekong-Nkeh, Nke Ekong Abasi) and the Ikombi dance has won international recognition; they have become a form of entertainment in welcoming important dignitaries to the state and at events outside the state. It has become a trademark of the Efiks and is becoming more widely recognized      
2.2.2 Ekpe Festival of the Ngwas
Among the Igbo of Nigeria, there is a wealth of cultural heritage manifested in ceremonies connected with marriages, births, farming and myriad of other social institutions. These cultural activities contain the germs of rich poetry and prose, excellent music and lively drama which have not been raised far above their traditional level.   The Ekpe festival, an action-packed festival with songs and dance, is one of such cultural events, and is very popular among the Ngwa of Igboland. It is also widely celebrated in neighbouring areas such as the old Umuahia and Owerri provinces. As a festival, Ekpe is celebrated yearly because it is an important cultural event in the life of the people being the culmination of their year rites. Its roots are deep in traditional religion and ritual.   It is only a tragic event such as the death of a village hero, or permission from the gods that can stop the staging of Ekpe.  Ekpe festival takes place on Eke day. It is preceded by a free-for-all night of dancing and rehearsals for drummers, dancers, chorus leaders and their choric groups. On Eke day, many choric groups perform, ranging from groups of elderly men or women to children’s groups.   But the most important of all these groups does the one comprise men drawn from different quarters of the village who accompany the masquerade dancer and chief actor. Before noon on Eke day, this group rouses the village and begins the series of a circular movement designed to take them to the village square and out of it. It is led by a choric leader who, in the Greek sense, is the epheboi. The epheboi sings in praise of the village ancestors, especially those of them who had been chief actors, soliciting their blessings for the current chief actor and the village. Other choric groups of young men, women and children perform in the village square. They tour the village with the main drummers and not with the chief actor.   This participation by these minor choric groups add up to the communal significance of Ekpe. The only staging device of Ekpe is the “Arena staging” in its most traditional form. There is no raised platform for the chief actor or the drummers. Everybody is on the same level, including the spectators who have to peep over a forest of heads to see what is going on in the innermost circle enclosing the chief actor and masquerade dancer. It is significant that the old village shrine forms a background for the stage, with the drummers backing it and the chief actor facing it. It reminds one of the traditional Attic theatre thousands of years ago.   The dance movements of Ekpe are the vehicles of plot advancement. The entry dance leads the chief actor to his ancestral shrine where he obtains blessings for a successful day’s performance. The second dance movement is the climax of Ekpe. It marks the critical stage of the performance, and it is here that the chief actor’s role as a communal representative becomes clear.   As the music changes from “aja” into a more vigorous type, a sharpened knife is handed over to him. The chief guide admonishes him that “the village looks on to you.” When the actor takes the knife, he moves round and round the sacrificial goat tied to a peg on the sacrificial spot trying to make a decision. He re-enacts an ancient sacrifice by their forebears during which a human being is sacrificed to the gods. After the chief actor has taken so many tours round the goat, he appears to make up his mind.   He waits for the opportunity for the goat to stretch its neck, a propitious movement. All of a sudden, he takes a stance, bends and rises – the sacrifice is done. The head of the goat is thrown up to show the audience amid volleys of gunshots and wild ecstasy. The sacrifice has been successful and the village can expect increase in crops, livestock and children during the coming year. As in most traditional African ceremonies, the costumes used for Ekpe are very colourful indeed. The chief actor wears a white net-like mask covering from head to ankles.   He carries a wooden figure of Ngwu on his head. Ngwu is one of the deities of Alumerechi. He is the symbol of traditional strength and power. The Ufo-bearer carries a magical concoction believed to destroy the power of charms. His costume consists of tattered rags and he smears his body with charcoal. Some comic asides are provided by the bow-man who carries a bow and some arrows and frightens the audience as he pretends to shoot into it. He looks funny with his white and black face and charcoal-smeared body. The element of disguise is very strong in Ekpe. Young boys usually disguise themselves as young girls by wearing ladies’ dresses.   The trick is so exquisitely done that a spectator cannot find out the truth. Young ladies simply cover their breasts with broad cloth exhibiting the intricate design of the tattoo on their skin. They wear large beads around their waits and their hair-do is strictly cultural. Within the Ekpe cycle, there are ceremonies, such as Ogbom dance, which are comparable to rural dionysia, or the Lesser Dionysia, or the Dionysia or the fields which were held in many country districts of Africa when the harvest had been completed in December each year, as a festival of dedication and thanksgiving to the fertility god for the first fruits of the year. Ogbom also resembles the Lenea festival of fifth-century Greece because the ceremony is a platform for competition in choric verse. These festivals do not have any tragic overtones.   It is the comic or the satirical that dominate. Ekpe itself is like the Greek city Dionysia during which visitors from all parts of the world visited Athens. Like the city Dionysia, Ekpe enjoys communal participation. Both occasions are dedicated to fertility gods. But whereas Ekpe appears an odd mixture of serious and comic elements, the city Dionysia is performed on one place, that of religious ritual dedication. In movement, Ekpe follows closely the three ritualistic movements of the Greek chorus. The entry movement of Ekpe could be regarded as the Greek prologues, the sacrificial movement, its stamina, and the exit movement, the Greek exodus, the three stages in the primary act of religious ritual. Ekpe as dance-drama stands in dire need of structural reconstruction to lift it above the level of traditional art.

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