The importance of wearing a mask


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…

123 thoughts on “The importance of wearing a mask

  1. You have quite a mask collection. And they come from so many different places. It a country where our masks look like our real faces, it’s strange to think that people wear masks over their faces except on Halloween and Mardi Gras. I wish I could have a closer look at your books. LOLOL Love the library. 🙂

    • In many parts of the world where I’ve lived, masks are part of “everyday” celebrations: crops, planting, marriage, birth, etc. They are also a way of bringing the Gods down to Earth. Which is why one “becomes” the mask.
      I knew you’d be interested in the books. That section is K to L. Of note: Kipling, Stephen King, Dennis Lehane, Maurice Leblanc, Le Carré.
      Lowest row: the Arabian nights, a 19th century history and geography book (fab), Racine and Voltaire, and a history of Europe…

      • Oh I’m potentially dangerous too, at least to some. 😉 But yeah, humans are probably the most dangerous animals on Earth for reasons I won’t get into now. Not all of them, but probably the fewer the vicious.

        Dunno if the links will get through considering the thorough censorship that’s in place, but I have to try.
        First is a two minute demo of the (in)utility of a mask:
        Second is a 3h18min interview with someone whose mere name mentioning in the free chat section of a forum board got all my comments deleted in that fear-mongering topic – talking about censorship:

        Now, as to the type of masks in your collection presented above, my viewing of the Ancient Aliens series where they have shown at times such masks and even entire costumes led me to believe that they may be completely related to the appearance of ancient “gods” that descended on Earth long ago and/or their strange vehicles. (why a true god would need a vehicle is a very good question, by the way)
        The series got more in depth on this subject than I could do here and now so I’d recommend anyone to try and watch it if/when possible.

        I’d also highly recommend you Brieuc to take good care of your masks and books collections as well as any others you may have, because I feel there may come a time when history will be severely distorted, possibly with Fahrenheit 451-type events taking place. It already started with statues being taken down, so anything goes.

        Be safe and well, mon ami! 😉

      • I will take good care of them my friend. The first thing that will go out in the next war is Internet. Even before electricity… (I worked in the Defense industry in a previous life, and I know what I’m saying. Internet will be the first thing to crash…)
        Then I can re-read Voltaire’s “Candide” and cultivate my garden… As Doctor Pangloss would say, “all will be good in the best of worlds”.

      • Hm, I’d say the Internet will become private (again) for “official” use only, rather than being destroyed completely. The AI if it didn’t already take over, it soon will, and as such it will need the Internet.

        As for the garden… I’d rather be pushing daisies as they say than live in a nightmare much worse than Orwell’s ‘1984’.

  2. I just look at South Korea and their numbers…also having travelled there many people wore masks….it’s contested here as well…🤓☺️…but then it seems everything is these days… I’ll dance and listen to music 💃 sending joy hedy

  3. This is a very great point you make: “Blatantly ignoring the fact that cultures where masks are routinely worn in public seem to have fared – much – better.” I love you collection of masks. Coincidentally, we, my mom, collected masks.

    • Mere observation of facts. (I’m a sucker for facts…)
      You did? Collect masks? Where from? Do you still have them?
      I hope you’re all right in NY. Situation is possibly better than in other states? 🙏🏻

      • It’s truly a great observation. Never analyzed it that way. That collection was my mom’s and like yours, they were from all over. I don’t have them in New York, no. Sadly, no. The pandemic is once again rearing its head. Is this the second wave? How are things there?

      • I once did a world analysis on 30 or so variables.Using data form the world bank. A bit tedious but relatively easy. Ran regressions and stuff. So I’m used to look at the whole planet. There are, after all, only 200 countries (plus change). That’s only 200 cases. I’ve done research with 5-10,000 interviews… 😉
        A shame you don’t have the collection. I can only hope it is still complete.
        Second wave is rearing its head in France, Spain… Here? We never really finished the first wave… 😩😩😩

  4. Fabulous collection! I like that you have several that have been danced. Some of the simpler ones seem to be the most traditional and authentic. I was fascinated about what you said about hiding vs becoming with masks W compared with E. My dad has two garunas from his travels in Indonesia. He also has a small mask from Puerto Rico we bought him on our honeymoon there. Beautiful masks in PR, have you seen them?

  5. It’s always cool to look at masks. My husband was petrified of them so, needless to say, there are none in my house! (Always cool to snoop and see what books are on the shelves, too 😉 )

  6. What a fascinating collection of masks you have, Brian.
    Here, we would be in much better shape if everyone would just wear a mask. How hard can it be?!? It’s utterly confounding.

  7. I love these expressive masks, what’s not to like? And most cultures had masks, and the interpretations fascinate me. It always intrigues me that some rights advocates choose the strangest bridges to die on. How is it ‘your’ right to kill (murder?) me with your contagion? I would imagine if masks had been banned, the rednecks would have been wearing them. So are they really interested in rights or is it all about being contrarian? We have our own versions down here, invariably they’re called bogans.

  8. Oh boy do I love this post. I’ve seen some of your masks before but not all of them and I love them. I am particularly fond of your rhino mask and your “best” mask. I purchased a wood carving in Belize I will have to send you a photo of. It isn’t a mask yet I think you will like it. It hangs on the wall in my front room adorned by books and other travel items. Remind me if I forget…

    • Look forward to the wood carving. Must be distinctive, coming form Belize.
      (‘Been wanting to do this post for a while. I see the masks all the time in my library. Then “mask” 😷 clicked…)
      Stay safe Jenny

  9. Masks – It is such a contentious topic. I left my job partly because I was banned from wearing a mask.
    I think it is good practice if you are in contact with potentially infectious folks.
    My daughter was terrified of masks when she was small and would have nightmares over some of yours displayed in this post. Her brother used to love all the gory Halloween ones with the eyes popping out – no wonder she has a phobia. Now she has to wear one at work. She does it no problem.

    • ‘banned from wearing a mask’? Jesus! What is wrong with people?
      Children can be scared, though, strangely enough, when our grandson was 6-8 months he always pointed at the masks. To show he had noticed them, and above all, remembered them every tine he came.
      Now your daughter has to wear one? Good. Two birds with one stone.
      Sorry about your job. Are you looking for another one?

      • I think I just retired a little earlier. It would have been nice to finish on a high, but I guess I am enjoying the retired life more now.
        I asked the boss whether it was about image or safety. She told me the unwritten ban was about image!
        Your point about scaring kids is valid though as I worked mainly in paediatrics, however, the ban applied to all clients. I was in a higher risk group, but worked with high risk clients. To me they should have been mandatory for both of us.

      • Our oldest daughter works at the National Cancer Institute. She’s an infectologist. Though she already caught the virus (no symptoms, but she can’t have it any more. Only one case worldwide), she dresses up with the full gear when seeing patients.
        Masks should be mandatory, period.
        Enjoy retirement. 🙏🏻

      • It is part of the growing madness. Everyone wants others to do as they do. They can’t be content o just do their thing, they have to obligate others to do the same. Very totalitarian.

      • The increasingly tense situation in the US seems to be spilling out into fear and mild panic in the westernised countries. I guess we can blame the media for that?

  10. One of my neighbours jumped at me right after lock down lifted in a Mexican wrestling mask. I had accepted a package for her.
    She is a big and funny lady but if I hadn’t known her I would’ve thought she’s there to clear out the appartment or who knows what. It would’ve been a good opening for a horror movie. The mask was really pretty by the way; turquoise and gold WITH wings on the side.
    So yeah, wear that mask with style!

  11. Thank you for sharing your mask collection with us! As I read your commentary, I was reminded of Eugene O’Neill’s play The Great God Brown. The characters wear masks to represent the different personas they take on.

      • I am fine.
        I have uploaded one photo on masks in Bhutan and previously some Venetian masks, masks are quite interesting.
        Seems the West has taken wearing masks as reducing their freedom, instead of discipline of protecting oneself and others.
        Take care!

    • Another sign of human creativity. The very elaborate make up of the dancers in Kerala is almost a mask… (Forgot what the dance is called) (I’ll look it up) Got it: Kathakali! Jesus” my memory is dwindling…

      • Yeah, Kathakali masks are a very popular decorative item in south India. Haha, I think that’s the fun part one moment you feel your memory is dwindling and the other makes you remember it back again.

      • Not so sure about the fun part. My memory has always a large part of me. And to feel the synapses failing is a tad preoccupying. 😉
        Now it’s also interesting as to the way I seem to “store” things in my memory: similar sounding words tend to be stored together, by form, not so much by meaning.

  12. This is fabulous ~ I got to know the President of Xi’an-Janssen when I lived in China years (decades) ago, and he has masks from all around the world, and I was entranced by them all. The collection you have here takes me back to that time ~ and how I wish I had one of those so I could wear it around when I am up and about 🙂 I hope all is going well, take care!

    • Masks are fascinating. There is a museum here “Coronel” with a huge collection of masks. Just heard of another museum with a collection donated by Ruth Lechuga. Can’t wait for this madness to end to go and visit.
      All well with you my friend? Haven’t posted in a while?

      • Things are well, getting back into the groove. Was in the States for all of August (6 weeks) which was great, even amid all the chaos. Then returned back to Czech a couple weeks ago without much problem (tested on arrival). The museum sounds great, a good place to wander and escape into history and a different world than the one were currently in 🙂 Cheers and be safe.

      • So you’re “stationed” in Prague now?
        Museums are good places to dive into other humans minds and histories. The painting you see came out of the painters eyes and head.
        Stay safe too.

  13. That’s quite a collection, cher Mzungu. Interesting, the contrast between our culture seeing masks as hiding our identity as compared to most of the rest of the world viewing masks as taking on another identity. I see our current situation as very symbolic. We are wearing masks, but many people are dealing with seeing people’s true identities right now, which can be either painful or liberating. Hope you are well, mon ami! Bises.

    • That contrast is like a mirror between the West/North on the one hand and the South/east on the other hand.
      And the West (e.g. France) is throwing so much Shrink garbage into the mask issue… you wouldn’t believe. Personally, masks don’t bother me (I’m a Mzungu, right?) If it only leaves the eyes, we still have 80% of a people’s expression. Now we can spot the liars who only smile with their teeth.
      Just read your last post. (Had saved it for a rainy day. I like to take my time reading you). Left me a bit concerned. Ça va? Bises back. 🙏🏻💕

      • I’m okay, cher Brian. It has been a very difficult few months, but I feel that the sun is returning. I don’t wear a mask when I write my posts. 😉My readers see the real me. I hope that our current situation brings out the authentic side of many others. It is so needed. Have a wonderful Sunday. 💖

      • Good to hear that you’re okay and that the sun is coming back (in the fall?).
        And yes, I know we “read” the real you.
        Merci pour le Dimanche. De même pour la semaine. biz. 💕

  14. ahhhh – love the reminder to always wear our masks and dance!
    and the ending street shot with the Chinelo masks was so fn to look around.
    also, the culture and different vibes in each mask was enjoyable.
    nice timely post too –
    and foe me – I am sure glad I have a lot of masks (about a dozen) and it is fun to change them up

      • Well I mean the cotton masks for face coverings right now – haha – and you don’t need a photo of those – some swirly thin material – some black – some plain white – a pink satin mask – (that I don’t really like) etc

        However – I did have an African mask – wooden and framed – as a focal point for years – and I likely have a photo to dig out – let me check and see –

      • Haha. Of course. There are some pretty creative and elegant masks out there.
        Pink satin might be a bit too much, right?
        Let’s see if you can dig the picture.
        (I’ve been re-organizing my photo archives for the past ten days, including re-formatting a Mac… A bit nightmarish)

      • Oh I feel the effort and pain of the reorganizing – so
        Best wishes –
        And actually I think I will find the photo pretty quickly because I actually saw it recently – it was from around 2003 and it had my brother n law in it- be back later
        (And yes – the pink satin was not me – just have it to my mother in a goody box I sent up north) but it was a well made mask!
        Had a small metal piece to adjust the nose area and had folds – and fit well (but nit my style)
        Be back later amigo

  15. Ta collection est magnifique… Joli clin d’œil aux réfractaires du port de masques 🙂
    Je ne me pose pas la question : je sors = je porte un masque.
    Prends soin de toi

    • Merci. La collection est à peu prés finie. PLus de place. A moins de trouver une pièce exceptionnelle quelque part.
      Et le clin d’oeil, comme tu l’a vu était volontaire. L’un des plus grands réfractaires (l’homme orange sur Pennsylvania Avenue )vient de tomber, victime de son propre jeu… Tut tut…
      Le 😷 est un peu ch… mais c’est notre principale défense.
      Toi aussi fais attention. L’école a recommencé pour ton “gone”? 😉

      • Peut-être qu’il verra les choses sous un autre angle, maintenant.

        Oui, il a repris l’école, avec une pause obligatoire, cette semaine : il a attrapé un mauvais rhume (et moi aussi, du coup) Aujourd’hui, ça va mieux, mais nous avons eu quelques craintes.

      • Espérons, mais le précédent de Johnson et Bolsonaro n’est pas encourageant.
        J’oubliais qu’en France, la saison des rhumes recommence. Et ça doit être un peu angoissant… Ne sachant pas si “c’est du lard ou du cochon” comme disait ma grand-mère. Ici le lycée n’a pas encore recommencé en présentiel. On-line même en moyenne section. Du coup on a le “gamin” à la maison 2 fois par semaine, pour la “classe” en-ligne. C’est rigolo.
        Bon, encore plus de raison pour faire attention à toi. Biz ma grande. A +

      • Well, don’t move!
        I’m detaching myself from a lot of stuff these days…giving it away, or selling it….. just in case I ever have to move.

      • We might have to move. We came here to be closer to our eldest daughter and grandson. plus the new granddaughter. Now, problem is school. Little G. has started at the French school which is about 1/2 hour away from here. So, we’re thinking of a house closer to the school. I’d love walking distance.
        (And we’ve already dumped/donated a lot of things!)
        Keep on selecting stuff. It will be useful if oyu move.

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