Mask Design and the Social Implications of Pandemic Policy in Nigeria
Catalogue Vol.26 No. 1 Mask Design and the Social Implications of Pandemic Policy in Nigeria



The question of, ‘are all appearances of masks connoting mask dramaturgy?’ is the issue of focus in this paper. Before now, the use of mask in the society was limited to specific activities. However, the emergence of Covid-19 pandemic has expanded the context of mask usage to a form of universal costume for everyone through government regulations. Thus, face mask now has enormous demand with different designs. This trend brings significant force to the signification of mask and to the notion of every-day-is-theatre. It expands the creative enterprise of face mask design and the function of mask production.

This paper adopts an observational approach to interrogate the place of mask in the theatre at the time of the pandemic in Nigeria. It concludes that mask has contents when its appearance is wholly symbolic of specific function (entertainment, religion, awareness creation and education) and it is without contents when its appearance is for the purpose of protection.

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Perhaps there has not been any era that brought innovation into mask design like the Covid- 19 pandemic era. The advent of the pandemic brought much fear into the mind of the people as a result of the loss of many lives. The apparent threat of the disease to human life led to a wide use of mask as part of government policies, to prevent those without the disease from contacting it. The lock down policy sponsored and enforced by government, where all states in the country, restricted the movements of their citizens, banned social programmes that involved congregating including going to market for a period of time, created considerable difficulties for people. Of course, during the same period theatres, churches and schools were also closed down on government directives. This situation caused a lot of setbacks on cultural practices.

...The realm of culture is the matrix of activities of the African. All his creative and artistic endeavors go into the crucible – his finest moment and his glorious hour. The theatre, being the synthesis of all the art and the melting pot of all creative activities is particularly to the African, a communal institution, life is fulfilled in creativity. For the purification of the soul, a man needs to create. (153).

People worshipped in their homes, those who wished to farm, had tremendous difficulties in purchasing agricultural materials from the market. Similarly, those who wished to sell commodities, had difficulties in doing so. Public performances were suspended for fear of gathering people. Thus, both buying and selling of any commodity, was difficult until government gave new directives to open public places, churches, schools and other institutions, on the condition that, all citizens going to these places, must put on face mask and observe Covid-19 protocols.

The instruction on the use of face mask brought great innovation for its design, not only that, the designers had a large population to satisfy, there is equally a great demand for quality; people making choices from a variety of designs for diverse reasons, and different companies producing multiple dynamic designs simultaneously to meet up with the social demand of the users. The point is that, government policy on the use of face mask to prevent the spread of Covid-19 forced many people to abide by its usage. Various armed and civil agencies in the country were mandated to monitor the implementation of this policy besides signing into law certain punishments for the violation of Covid-19 rules or protocols in public places. The government again deployed huge sums of money to companies for the production and distribution of these masks, and those who could not access materials donated by government, had to locate tailors who locally designed mask for them to use. This wide demand for masks made room for innovation in both design and production procedure till today.

However, it is important to note that mask has been in existence long before the emergence of Covid-19 pandemic only that it was not for everyday use. Therefore, the ubiquitous use of masks during Covid-19 pandemic shares similarities with the theatrical application of mask. Nonetheless, it is important to delineate these parameters, to define the essence or functions of the appearance of people in these masks, for, the use of mask connotes different meanings. The question of ‘are all appearances of masks connoting mask dramaturgy?’ will be deciphered at this juncture to differentiate mask with or without mythic content.

... The use of mask has occupied many aspects of human life, especially in religious circus.

The African society especially has different masks traditions that serve religious purposes. Therefore, it is expedient to consider the current wave of everyday life in mask design.

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