There are two major categories of African masquerades; those that have ritual significance and those simply meant for entertainment. The makisi masks of the Mbunda of Zambia used to be represented only in the context of initiation rites but today, masks of the Old Mbunda (early migrants from Zaire and Angola) are used for entertainment while those of the Mbunda (later migrants) continue to maintain the ritual of the performance of makisi. Among the Yoruba of Nigeria, the Egungun Onidan( masquerade that perform magical displays) are for entertainment and are distinquished from the ancestral egungun by virtue of the following: Egungun Onidan are chanting masquerades while ancestral egungun do not normally chat. Egungun Onidan are typically accompanied by an ensemble of bata( double-headed, conically shaped fixed-pitched membrane drums), while most ancestral egungun prefer the dundun hour-glass tension drum ensemble.
The Onidan, sometimes also referred to as Agbegijo( carriers of wooden structures when dancing), travel from town to town giving displays in which they magically change into different animals. They sometimes perform as the ancestral masks ( for example, at masquerade festivals) but are not restricted to these contexts.
The Elo masquerades of the Nupe were at one time connected with rituals but today they perform purely for entertainment. Their regular annual outing nowadays takes place on the birthday anniversary of the Prophet Mohammed.
The Abua people of Rivers State recognise two mask types: the Onwuena ( ritual masquerades) and the Egbukele ( which are more inclined towards entertainment). The Oje Ogwu and the Okumkpa masks of the Afikpo Igbo also seem to be for entertainmenmt.
Ojo Ogwu masquerades wear raffia costums and masques made of nets, with elaborate headgear. There are usually 15 dancers together with 15 musicians playing iron bells and wood blocks or rhythm sticks.
The Okumkpa, like the Egungun Onidan ( and the Ekurahu of the Igbira) are singing masquerades. The Okumkpa are performed by men and boys of the village secret society.