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Costume and make up are a very important aspect of a dramatic presentation, as it gives out the interpretative meaning of the physical appearance of a character; therefore it is highly symbolic and cannot be overemphasized. Many people have different conceptions and interpretations of costume and make-up, some see it as fashion, and others as a medium of shelter, while others see it as an enhancement of the human body. In spite of this misconception and misinterpretation, the communicative ability of costume and make-up still persists among Africans and non-Africans. There is a need to make right this misconception and misinterpretation to help achieve the desired cultural interpretation embedded in the use of costume and make-up. The researcher, therefore, to interrogate this research problem, adopted the mixed method of data analysis which includes participatory observation and in-depth content analysis of textbooks, relevant journals, and seminar papers towards analyzing the symbolic essence, the cultural interpretation of costume and makeup, using the Egba Festival of the Kokori, Isoko L.G.A of Delta State as a working metaphor, to successfully give undertone meaning to costume and makeup, used in the production. Furthermore, the use of costume and make-up will give the community cultural identification, sense of belonging and make the indigenes see and appreciate their dress sense as a communicative tool.







Costume and makeup is an interpretative tool in the drama that enhances, describe the actor’s appearance during a performance. The use of costume and makeup is dictated by the directorial concept. Choices of costumes are usually to add aesthetic value to the actor’s role. The role of the costume is to design characters. Usually, the costumes are designed to denote a character's occupation, mood, status, religion, and political traits. When costumes are designed, designers bear in mind the aesthetic pleasure that the audience or reader would derive from the costume worn by actors. This is because costume tells the audience or reader everything about the character. And it promotes the cultural ambassadors of a nation and its people. It is also the cultural ambassadors of the society in which they are produced to proclaim the past and the present life of a particular area.
In the same view, costume and makeup are an integral aspect of a stage drama, because costume and makeup are an important element of the theater that further tells the story in the play Lion and the Jewel and Death and the King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka. The costume gives vital information, it is a silent interpreter of what may not appear in the dialogue of a play, which contributes to the beauty of drama. One major element aspect in the play is costume. However, experts cannot but wonder the level at which costumes abused. It becomes staggering when questions such as: how real is the costume used in a particular scene related to what happened? For example, a woman in mourning looked gorgeously dressed. How reflective is the use of costumes?
The person responsible for creating costumes for performance is the costume designer who must develop visual and creative ideas that will beautify the performance be its stage performance, home videos, festivals, occasions, and carnivals.

Culture is the sum of attitudes, customs, and beliefs that distinguishes one group of people from another, transmitted through language, materials, objects, rituals, institutions, and arts, transferable from one generation to the next. To this Edward, Taylor contributes that;

Culture is that complex whole, which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.(1)

This in essence explains further that culture cuts across all dimensions of life as practiced by people in a given setting and within an age. The culture of a people means a lot to them, their lives and beliefs are expressed as they live and go about their everyday businesses. This simply shows that culture conditions the communication of a people and how it proceeds among individuals, no matter how homogenous. To this, Ngugi Wa Thiong O contributes that;

Culture in its broadest sense is a way of life fashioned by a people in their collective endeavor to live and come to terms with their total environment. It is the sum of their arts, their science, and all the social institutions,  including their system of beliefs and rituals…Such values are often expressed through the people’s songs, rites, these varieties of artistic activities have come to symbolize the meaning of the word, culture. (127)

The concept of culture has a long evolution, so dynamic in nature. The Anthropologists have an assumption that culture is generally adaptive as it provides people an adjustment to their physical and social environment, the basic or derived needs of individuals within the society, such as the need of nutrition, reproduction, comfort, safety, relaxation, clothing, shelter, and growth. This simply means that culture is a learned behavior shared by a member of a society, which could be said to start when a child is born. It is a culture that distinguishes human beings from other animals. To support this, Richardson Boyd states that;

Culture is information capable of affecting individual’s behavior that they acquire from other members of their space through teaching, imitation, and other forms of social transmission. (5)

Costume and make up is a very important aspect of a people. The culture of a people identified by the kind of costume and make-up they put on, as it is always the first call of attention, not only for the external covering of the body, they are unique identities particular to people, which identifies them in any gathering or location. To support this, Julie Umuokoro as quoted by Tracie Ezeajugh maintains that;

Cultural Symbolism is the hallmark of the Nigerian traditional dress. It is consciously or unconsciously evolved to bear emblems unique to its owner. Such emblems may be derived from common features in the environment, it may also be persistent contact of an ethnic group with some other, be a feature borrowed, appropriated, and seemingly endorsed by widespread acceptance and use as one of its ethnic symbols. (23)

This explains costume and make-up as symbolic and carriers of information, as it concerns a people to the end. It gives expressive and explanatory information of the wearers, an aid to characterization, that in performance, for instance, it speaks volume, even before the characters begin to speak or express themselves.

In any event or production, the costume and make-up worn speak all about the people and the production they are involved in, it consists of the total visual appearance of the character in any performance. It stands as a very important facet of a character and stands as the strongest element of the visual sense in a production. Costumes are jewelry, ornaments, accessories won by an actor to impersonate a character, and to play a role in a dramatic presentation. To this, Robert Cohen opines that;

Costume has always been a major element in the theatrical experience. It is a vehicle for the “dressing up”, actors and actresses alike that have always considered a requirement for the fullest degree of theatrical satisfaction. (147)

This simply put means that costumes transform an actor or a performer into an actor that is being portrayed, thereby aiding the audience to understand the effectiveness of this actor, as well as his or her costume.

Costumes are different from everyday clothing. Clothing refers generally to what is worn on the body as a covering for the skin, which is part of the evolution in African culture when they started considering nakedness in the public as disgraceful. It motivated people to make and wear clothes out of necessity to protect their bodies from cold, heat, rain, damp and other hazards in the environment. Costumes are used as a form of symbolic expression of oneself as well as a communicative tool that interprets its sociological effects at any given time.

To support this, Anthony Duruaku states that;

The objective of costume design is to set the tone and style, indicate time and place, characterize individuals and groups, underline personal relationship, create symbolic outfits when appropriate, meet the practical needs of performers and coordinate the entire production. (307)

The above means that costumes communicate a whole lot about a production and its values on a day to day activities cannot be overlooked.

Make-up on the other hand plays a complementary role to costume. Some make-up practitioners see it as costuming; it has an innate communicative connection with the appearance of the actor.

Make-up is used to conceal all the exposed part, that was not concealed by the costume worn by an actor, and its form could be in liquid or solid form depending on its purpose and communicative potency. Micheal J Gillette opines that;

Stage make-up enhances the illusion that the actor has become the character. In almost every production. Some of the actors… do not facially resemble the challenge by providing actors with the means to change their appearance, (451)

This simply means that make up is very essential in performances, as it changes an actor into that desirable character in the world of the performance



Culture as it concern costume and make up among many others is gradually taking another dimension, loosing its sacredness, artistic and aesthetic values, and need to be preserved and documented, before it finally go into extinction.

Many ethnic groups in Nigeria, no longer recognize the fact that costume and make up goes beyond articles of beautification, despite the socio-cultural, political and economic context of Nigeria’s diverse ethnic groups. The style in which costume and make up are made into, this days, no longer represent its cultural identity, it is a sure fact that no culture grows in isolation, but not recognizing the communicative essence of costumes and make up is a difficult issue.

The lackadaisical attitude of this generation towards culture, especially the youths is overwhelming and degrading. Youths no longer research into the important factors that make them a member of a particular ethnic group and may wrongfully misrepresent an ideal costume and make up all in the name of celebration.

The crux of this study is to join force with preachers of good cultural identity, to show costume and make up, not as mere fashion, rather as an indispensable tool in cultural representation, showing its sustainability and transformation. So that indigenes of various ethnic groups will understand through this work that beyond aesthetics in costume and make up, there is an element of communication.



The main objective of the study is to assess costume and makeup as a vital tool for cultural and tourism promotion and preservation in Nigeria.

The specific objectives of this study are as follow:

  1. To showcase costume and make up as very important in performance, as a first call of attention in a performance, to give character definition.
  2. To suggest an advice on what can be done to retain the originality of a people, not minding the influence from globalization.
  3. To preach against Ethnocentrism, there should be a balance between the African  culture and the western culture, since what the westerners brought was not entirely wrong and there is no culture that is not open to outside influence

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