In "Imitation," Nkem's husband Obiora regularly returns from his time in Nigeria with reproductions of Benin masks for their American home. As the story is about Nkem's realization that her marriage to Obiora is tenuous, compromised, and overall fake, the masks themselves become representative of the state of their marriage. Nkem delights in the masks and the history behind them, just as she muses that she once found joy in the life that Obiora allows her to lead. However, she allows that she doesn't always believe Obiora's accounts of the masks' history. When she discovers proof that Obiora is keeping a young woman in their home in Nigeria, she learns that she shouldn't necessarily trust or believe Obiora's accounts about anything.
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Benin Masks appears in The Thing Around Your Neck. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.