/ Monday, October 8th, 2007
  • The showpiece of most unique resort, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, is the 33 acres of land where more than 100 animals roam on three "savannas." Many of the Resort’s guest rooms overlook this savanna, where exotic animals such as giraffe and zebra graze and rest at watering holes – perfect for photo opportunities. This six-story tall deluxe resort was designed by architect Peter Dominick, known for designing Disney’s Fort Wilderness Lodge. Both Lodges include lobbies that vault six stories right up to the ceiling.
  • The Igbo Ijele (pronounced e-bo e-gelay), a rare and colorful ceremonial African mask that stands 16 feet tall, graces the lobby of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.
    • The mask, featured as one of the authentic African art pieces at the newest Disney resort, is the only Ijele known to exist outside of Africa. It was acquired by Elizabeth Etchepare, who lived in Nigeria with a family of Igbo people while a graduate student with the University of Santa Barbara. During her studies, Etchepare built a relationship with elders of the group and successfully commissioned them to create, build and initiate the mask through tribal rituals.
    • The Ijele, the largest and one of the most respected masks in sub-Saharan Africa, usually appears every 10 to 25 years among the Igbo people of Nigeria for celebrations and important events. This rarity is regarded as an attribute of greatness.
    • The mystical aura of the Ijele is derived from its complex construction and its meaning. The Ijele represents all aspects of Igbo life, dealing with the material and spiritual worlds through the various colors, designs, fabrics and figures found on the mask. Construction by a team of commissioned artists can involve four men working eight to 10 hours a day, seven days a week, for at least six weeks. The men work in seclusion before moving to an outside area for the final touches.
    • The Framework — A brightly colored cloth completely covers a cone-shaped frame supported on a circular foundation. The cloth creates a kaleidoscopic, rainbow effect. Hundreds of tassels are attached to the arches and the rim of the base.
    • The Headdress — Up to 100 stuffed figures fill out the spaces on the headdress, representing three categories:
      • - man and daily activities such as riding a bicycle or climbing a tree to cut fruit;
      • - the spirit world, which is represented by various masks;
      • - plant and animal life shown through various species on the mask such as the giant python encircling the foundation.
      • About 12 bright panels, nearly six feet in length, hang down from the disc to conceal the mask carrier.
  • The Performance — The person wearing the mask, who goes through physical and spiritual preparation for the event, goes under the framework, aided by followers to steady the mask. The Ijele orchestra, which consists of a line of drummers, flutists, dancers and singers, prepares the crowd. The mask is preceded by a male dancer and followed by the orchestra.
  • It begins its movement slowly, but during the 15-minute ceremonial dance, the Ijele is always majestic, enforcing his image as the king of masks and a figure of supreme mystical authority. The Ijele moves with agility as its large body goes forward, backward, side to side and in semicircular turns from left to right, going back into an enclosure.

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