Definition, Historical past, Makes use of, & Info

Basic traits

The masks of the world show nearly infinite selection, from the best of crude “false faces” held by a deal with to finish head coverings designed with ingenious movable components. Masks makers have proven nice resourcefulness in deciding on and mixing accessible supplies. Among the many substances utilized are woods, metals, shells, fibres, ivory, clay, horn, stone, feathers, leather-based, furs, paper, fabric, and corn husks. Floor therapies have ranged from rugged simplicity to intricate carving and from gaudy adornments to polished woods and mosaics.

Masks typically are worn with a fancy dress, typically so intensive that it fully covers the physique and obscures the wearer’s recognizable options. Essentially the costume completes the brand new id represented by the masks, and normally custom prescribes its look and building to the identical extent because the masks itself. Costumes, just like the masks, are made from an amazing number of supplies, all of which have a symbolic reference to the masks’s complete imagery. Masks and costume are greatest understood as a unit and in efficiency.

makishi dancer

Masks worn with costume: makishi dancer, a masked ancestral spirit who assists at initiation rites of the tribes of the northwestern area of Zambia.

Carl Frank/Photograph Researchers

The morphological parts of the masks are with few exceptions derived from pure kinds. Masks with human options are labeled as anthropomorphic and people with animal traits as theriomorphic. In some cases the masks type is a replication of pure options or is kind of lifelike, and in different cases it’s an abstraction. Masks normally signify supernatural beings, ancestors, and fanciful or imagined figures, they usually may also be portraits. The localization of a specific spirit in a selected masks have to be thought-about a extremely vital motive for its existence. In masks worn for socially vital rituals, the change in id of the wearer for that of the masks is important, for if the spirit represented doesn’t reside within the picture of the masks, the ritual petitions, supplications, and choices made to it could be ineffectual and meaningless. The masks, subsequently, most frequently features as a way of contact with numerous spirit powers, thereby defending towards the unknown forces of the universe by prevailing upon their potential beneficence in all issues relative to life.

maiden spirit masks

Maiden spirit masks symbolizing magnificence and peacefulness, painted wooden, southern Igbo Ekpe society, Nigeria; within the Nigerian Museum, Lagos. Top 21.3 cm.

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The making of masks

With few exceptions, masks of a ceremonial nature had been and are made by skilled artisans or famous sculptors. In societies wherein masks of supernatural beings have performed a big ceremonial position, it’s normally presumed that the religious energy of the created picture is strongly felt by the artist. A major perception concerned in each the conception and the rendering of those objects was and is that each one natural and inorganic matter accommodates religious energy and that the masks itself subsequently possesses the ability of no matter materials was used to make it. This energy is taken into account a unstable, lively power that’s surrounded by numerous taboos and restrictions for the safety of these dealing with it. Within the instance of ceremonial masks, sure prescribed rituals have to be adopted within the means of the masks’s creation. In most cases the artist’s instruments too comprise religious energy, and even these have to be dealt with in a prescribed method.

Kuskokwim Yupik masks

Kuskokwim Yupik masks depicting a walrus and one other creature, c. 1875; within the Nationwide Museum of the American Indian, George Gustav Heye Heart, Smithsonian Establishment, New York Metropolis.

Courtesy of the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Basis, New York

Because the type of the masks develops, it’s normally believed to accumulate energy more and more in its personal proper, and once more numerous procedures are prescribed to guard the craftsman and to make sure the efficiency of the item. If all of the conventions have been adhered to, the finished masks, when worn or displayed, is thought to be an object suffused with nice supernatural or spirit energy. In some cultures it’s believed that due to the shut affiliation between the masks maker and the spirit of the masks, the artist absorbs a few of its magic energy. Just a few West African peoples consider, in truth, that the creators of masks are probably able to utilizing the item’s supernatural powers to trigger hurt to others.

The masks maker is enjoined to work inside long-established bounds, utilizing explicit kinds, conventional imagery, and formal conventions. If they aren’t adopted, the artist can convey upon himself the extreme censure of his social group and the displeasure and even wrath of the spirit energy inherent within the masks. This requirement, nevertheless, doesn’t limit inventive expressiveness. The masks maker can and does creatively interpret the historically prescribed basic kinds, attributes, and gadgets. In truth, it’s typically exactly the artist’s identified potential to provide a vitally expressive or an aesthetically pleasing presentation of the required picture that makes him fascinating as a masks maker.

masks representing the mwanapwo

Masks representing the mwanapwo, a legendary determine of a younger lady who died. It is among the outstanding figures in masked performances by the Chokwe and associated peoples within the jap Angolan–northwestern Zambian tradition space.

Gerhard Kubik


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