There still seems to be some debate about wearing a mask or not during the current pandemic. Blatantly ignoring the fact that cultures where masks are routinely worn in public seem to have fared – much – better. Singapore? Japan? Korea? Adversaries of wearing a mask appear to all be rednecks of various hues. All the more reason to wear one? We do. Any time we go out. I’ve also thought of going out in the street wearing one of the models in my mask collection.
Left: a Mexican mask from Michoacán, Mexico, probably. A “good” mask, it seems to have been “worn”, “danced”, in one of the many ceremonies of coming of age in the small towns. Many masks represent the Spaniards whose heavy beards and mustaches impressed the local populations when they first met. The eyebrows and hair are made of rabbit fur… Right: a “commercial” mask, sun and moon.
Another ceremonial mask, Guerrero or Michoacán. The mustache is probably horse hair. Not sure it’s as “good” as the first one. Looks a bit new.
Spaniard mask, Guatemala. After I brought it back, I realized it was infested with some kind of wood worm. In a library full of books and masks. OMG. Cured it with petrol if I recall. Left it on the terrace for a good while…
Garuda mask from Indonesia. A gift from Daughter #2. Papier mâché. Garuda (Eagle in Sanskrit) is the flying mount of Vishnu. Quite present at the temples of Angkor in Cambodia, and popular in Indonesia (though a Moslem country).
Left, a calavera, skull head. Not a mask proper, but it gets along well with its mates. Right: another “Spaniard” from Guatemala. Probably not danced, too clean, but meant to. be. See the holes above the eyes for the bearer to see while dancing.
A word about masks: the West sees masks as a hiding object. Think “Carnaval of Venice”. In most other parts of the world, Africa, Mexico, central America, the mask is an entity or an id-entity. He who wears the mask becomes the mask with all its personality and history.
Speaking of Venice. Bought this one there, ages ago, before the advent of “mass tourism”. Still a lot of people already. That is a “hiding” mask, Pulcinella or maybe Scaramuccia?
L. to r. A coconut “Tiger” mask, Acapulco. A copper mask, maybe used as a weight, bought in Libreville, Gabon, where I had my first job. (Had to get my first job in Africa hadn’t I?). Far right: monkey mask, Guatemala. Neat.
Rhino mask, Guinea, west Africa. See the horn on top? The cheeks wear slashes that were the traditional identification scars of one or the other tribe then. Mid 20th century.
Devil-may-care mask? Painted on a coconut. The horns are from a billy goat. State of Guerrero probably.
Michoacán and Guerrero masks. The one on the left is used in the “Dance of the old men” in Michoacán. Right? No idea what it represents. Though it is a good example of how masks in Mexico mix the human and the fantastic, man and animal…
Dance of the jaguars, from a little town called Quechultenango, in the mountains of Guerrero. Young boys around 12-14 dance in the streets in those traditional costumes as part of “coming of age” ceremonies. Pre-Colombian ceremonies no doubt. Then everybody goes to church. That’s “fusion”.
Quite possibly one of my best pieces. A little over 60 cms, 2ft high, this mask has clearly been “danced”. The handiwork tells me it is old, at least 50 years if not more. Note the blue eyes and the flowing beard. The bearer of the mask sees through the slits beneath the eyes.
A modern mask. Not danced at all. Surrealistic in a way. Goes with that part of the library.
This may come as a shock to some: this particular mask, I believe to be my “best” piece. Bought it in Taxco, from an old man in the street. A simple slice of wood. The face barely etched out in a few strokes of a knife. Definitely been danced.
Chinelo masks. Two blocks away from the house. Traditions are still kept. Masks are worn and danced.
Remember: always wear your 😷 and dance…