Mbari: Art as Process in Igboland

by Herbert M. Cole
Professor Emeritus, University of California, Santa Barbara

Back side of the mbari to Afoukwu at Lagwo by the artists, Ezem and Akalazu. Igbo peoples, Nigeria, opened in 1965. Photo by Herbert M. Cole.

An Owerri man who had participated in an mbari and seen many others said: "...you will come to understand that four [types of] things are included, things that are good and/or beautiful, things which terrify, forbidden things, and things that cause laughter." If you think about it, you realize how inclusive and broad this classification is.

From the left, the images here are: a seated good/beautiful woman, two women (one sitting upon the other) called "wives who love their husband very much," a goat-headed man copulating from behind with a woman-headed goat, called "man is goat," a monkey climbing a post, with a giant policeman behind, and another seated woman, with an ugly (and terrifying) non-human spirit barely visible to the right.