TITLE: Commedia dell’Arte Zanni
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Italy
ETHNICITY: Italian
DESCRIPTION: Zanni Mask
MAKER: Cesare Ginoletti (?)
CEREMONY: Commedia dell’Arte; Carnival
AGE: ca. 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: leather
OTHER MATERIALS: airbrushed paint; lacquer; hardware

The Commedia dell’Arte was a form of public entertainment that succeeded the classical Roman theater in Italy.  Like classical theater, Commedia performers wore leather masks to represent stock characters and often performed in amphitheaters to large audiences.  However, the Commedia differed in having only a very basic plot sketch, with most of the lines invented extemporaneously by the actors.  The Commedia‘s ability to stay topical and its frequent resort to vulgar humor, combined with the considerable talent of Italian troupes that traveled throughout Europe, made this form of theater extremely popular throughout the early 17th to late 19th centuries. Masked actors had to compensate for their inability to convey facial emotion through posture, gesture, and vocal nuance.

Zanni (sometimes spelled Zani or Zane) is among the oldest stock characters of the Commedia. The Zanni is a servant. Originally, Zanni represented an immigrant who served the character known as Don Pantalone. The mask is always a half-mask to facilitate conversation, and the nose may be short or long. Usually, Zanni wears a peaked hat and carries a wooden sword. His personality was typically portrayed as voracious, coarse, loud, emotional, ignorant scoundrel who nonetheless could sometimes manage the impossible. Eventually, specific forms of Zanni, such as Arlecchino (Harlequin), Pulcinella (Punch) and Brighella became more popular.

To learn more about Commedia dell’Arte, see Pierre Louis Duchartre, The Italian Comedy (Dover Pubs., 1966).

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TITLE: Diablo de Tropa
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Bolivia
SUBREGION: Oruro
ETHNICITY: Quechua and Aymara
DESCRIPTION: Diablo de Tropa (Troop Devil) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival (La Diablada)
AGE: ca. 1990s
MAIN MATERIAL: recycled tin sheet
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; glue

The Diablada is an important part of Carnival in several towns in the Altiplano region of Bolivia, Peru, and northern Chile.  The Diablada of Oruro, Bolivia, is famous for the large numbers of participants and the elaborateness of their masks and costumes.

The dance dates back to pre-colonial times and was adapted under the influence of the Spanish missionaries to conform to the Catholic doctrine of the struggle between good and evil.  The dance begins with the Archangel Michael commanding personified seven virtues against Lucifer and his personified seven deadly sins and an army of male and female devils.  Other non-European characters, such as the Andean Condor and the jukumari bear, also play a role.

The dance typically occurs in the course of the parade, with marching bands playing musical scores dating back to the 17th century.  In practice, the dance includes both male and female devils dancing in a group led by (rather than opposed by) the Archangel Michael.  Troop devils (diablos de tropa or demonios de tropa) are the standard parade devil, with dragons on the head to represent ferocity.

For more on Bolivian masquerade, see Peter McFarren ed., Masks of the Bolivian Andes (La Paz: Editorial Quipus/Banco Mercantil SA, 1993).

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TITLE: Chwibari Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Korea
SUBREGION: Songpa-dong, Seoul
ETHNICITY: Korean
DESCRIPTION: Chwibari (Drunkard) Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker in Seoul
CEREMONY: Songpa Sandae Nori Drama
FUNCTION: celebration; entertainment
AGE: 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; varnish; polyester cloth

Songpa Sandae Nori is a traditional masked play from the Songpa-dong and Garak-dong neighborhoods of Seoul, South Korea. Traditionally, the play begins with a parade circling the Songpa Market area to announce the performance. The actors and musicians then perform a ritual (seomakgosa) to sanctify the play and honor the ancestors.

The drama itself consists of either seven (short version) or twelve (long version) acts dealing with class conflict and human weakness and nobility.  In the play, thirty-three different masks are used to represent different characters.

This mask represents a drunkard (chwibari) who performs the kaekki chum dance. In the Fourth Act of the drama, a very holy monk abandons his doctrines and seduces a shaman girl. Later, a drunkard appears and, challenging the monk, wins the girl for himself.  After she bears his baby, she abandons him, and chwibari undertakes to educate his child himself.

For more on Korean masquerade, see Jeon Kyung-wook, Korean Mask Dance Dramas: Their History and Structural Principles (Gyeonggi-do, Rep. of Korea: Youlhwadang Pub. 2005).

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TITLE: New Year’s Bear Mask
TYPE: hood mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Romania
ETHNICITY: Romanian-Moldovan
DESCRIPTION: Urs (Bear) Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker in Neamt
CEREMONY: New Year’s Eve Celebration
AGE: 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: sheep leather and wool
OTHER MATERIALS: wood; metal hardware; metal crucifix; cotton cloth; cotton tassels

The urs, or bear dance, is performed in parts of rural Romania on New Year’s Eve, usually in the form of a group dance to the beat of drums and flutes. The dancers roar, chant or sing as they proceed through the village.  The ritual dates back to pre-Christian times and is intended to drive away winter spirits and purify the village. This mask was danced in Neamt for approximately 15 years.

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TITLE: Monkey Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Honduras
SUBREGION: Unknown
ETHNICITY: Mestizo
DESCRIPTION: Monkey (Mono) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Unknown, probably Carnival
AGE: ca. 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: painted glass eyes; adhesive; oil-based paint

Honduras has a diverse population composed primarily of persons of mixed ancestry (mestizos), but also distinct ethnic groups such as creoles, the Garifuna people, and various indigenous nations. Very little is known about masquerade in Honduras except for among the Garifuna people, who mostly use wire-mesh masks in their dances. This monkey mask bears some resemblance to similar masks from Guatemala, which suggests it might originate in western Honduras, part of which formerly belonged to the Mayan empire that ruled over Guatemala. It was likely made for use in Carnival.

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TITLE: Chwibari Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Korea
SUBREGION: Hwanghae Province
ETHNICITY: Korean
DESCRIPTION: Bongsan Talchum Chwibari (Drunkard) Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker at Seoul Institute for the Arts
CEREMONY: Talchum Drama
FUNCTION: celebration; entertainment
AGE: 2005
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: cotton hood; stitching; paint

Talchum has been called Korea’s first “professional” masked dance drama, although it originated as part of seasonal festivities in the Bongsan region, it later relocated to Sariwon, on a major trade route, and during the Japanese Colonial Era was performed in a theater for paying patrons. The drama is accompanied by music played on a small samheyon yukgak ensemble, consisting of three aerophones, one chordophone, and two membranophones.

This mask represents a drunkard (chwibari) who performs the kaekki chum dance. In the Fourth Act of the drama, a very holy monk abandons his doctrines and seduces a shaman girl. Later, a drunkard appears and, challenging the monk, wins the girl for himself.  After she bears his baby, she abandons him, and chwibari undertakes to educate his child himself.

For more on Korean masquerade, see Jeon Kyung-wook, Korean Mask Dance Dramas: Their History and Structural Principles (Gyeonggi-do, Rep. of Korea: Youlhwadang Pub. 2005).

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TITLE: Donald Duck Mask
TYPE: hood mask
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: United States of America
ETHNICITY: Mixed
DESCRIPTION: Rubber Disney-Licensed Donald Duck Mask
MAKER: unknown
CEREMONY: Halloween
AGE: early 1950s
MAIN MATERIAL: rubber
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

This mask represents Donald Duck, a popular character from the Walt Disney Company cartoons of the mid-twentieth century. Its appearance and materials place it in the 1950s, but the circumstances of its creation and licensing by the Disney Company are unknown.  It was probably used as part of a Halloween costume.

Click above to watch a documentary about Halloween in the United States.

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TITLE: Payaso Abanderado
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Ecuador
SUBREGION: Cotopaxi
ETHNICITY: Mestizo
DESCRIPTION: Payaso Abanderado (Flag-Bearing Clown)
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Fiesta de la Mama Negra
AGE: ca. 1960s-1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: hardwood
OTHER MATERIALS: plaster; paint

The Fiesta de la Mama Negra (Festival of the Black Mama) is a celebration held in September and again in early November in Latacunga, Ecuador. The event originates in pre-colonial indigenous practices and was adapted to honor the Virgin of Mercy (Virgen de la Merced) after Catholic conversion, in thanks for her supposed  intervention to protect the population from eruptions from the nearby Cotopaxi volcano.  The festival has become one of the most important in Latacunga, and includes a parade (comparsa) featuring the Mama Negra prominently as an African version of Mary, mother of Jesus.

Other important masks include animals, the Rey Moro (King Moor, showing the influence of the Conquistadors), angels, clowns (payasos abanderados), and miscellaneous other characters. This festival opens with the huacos, representing precolonial Aymara shamans who parade to cure the diseases of the crowd. This mask is a payaso abanderado, marked with crucifixes (as is traditional) and carrying the flag of Ecuador.

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TITLE: Eight Heavenly Maidens Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Korea
SUBREGION: Korean expatriates in China
ETHNICITY: Korean
DESCRIPTION: Eight Heavenly Maidens Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Kuunmong Drama
FUNCTION: entertainment
AGE: 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; stitching; cotton cloth; dyed cotton cords; elastic band; hardware

This mask was probably made by Korean expatriates living in China for use in a performance of the Kuunmong drama.  Kuunmong, or “The Cloud Dream of the Nine,” is a 17th century Korean novel set in China during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE). Although probably originally written in Chinese, it was early translated into Korean and is considered one of the main masterpieces of Korean literature.  Kuunmong tells the story of two young men who live strict Buddhist and Confucian lives, respectively.  The Confucian hero, So-yoo, marries or takes as concubines eight beautiful maidens, of which this mask probably represents one.  The mask is thus not made for a traditional cultural ceremony of Korea, but rather as a form of entertainment and cultural education.

For more on Korean masquerade, see Jeon Kyung-wook, Korean Mask Dance Dramas: Their History and Structural Principles (Gyeonggi-do, Rep. of Korea: Youlhwadang Pub. 2005).

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TITLE: Boules Janissary Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Greece
SUBREGION: Naoussa, Imathias
ETHNICITY: Hellenic
DESCRIPTION: Yianitsaros (Janissary) Mask
MAKER: Alexandros Karydas (Naoussa, 1985- )
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 2009
MAIN MATERIAL: beeswax
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; cotton cloth; horse hair; metal foil; cotton stitching; metal and plastic ornament

The origin of the Boules (Brides) Festival in the town of Naoussa, in Imathias, Greece, is obscured by history.  It probably has its origins in ancient Dionysian celebrations of fertility during the spring (Anthestiria). The modern festival is held during Carnival, but its origin was the Turkish occupation of the island of Paros.  The Ottoman Empire controlled Paros from 1537 until 1829.  According to legend, in 1705, the Turks renounced the principle of peaceful coexistence and Turkish soldiers came to the village of Naoussa to recruit forcibly children for their Christian military unit. Those families that resisted were slaughtered.  The following year, around Carnival time, the villagers of Naoussa put on masks and costumes, and paraded in tribute to the dead. To deceive the Turks, the ritual was framed as a wedding, but in reality the bride was a masked man, and the wedding feast was really a means to surreptitiously collect money and food for rebels living in the mountains.

Today, the tradition is still rigorously followed, with masked brides and Yiantisari (Janissaries), Greek soldiers fighting for the Turks. Only unmarried young males are allowed to masquerade, and all wear the same costume.  In the case of the Janissary, he wears a white, wide-sleeved blouse, a short skirt, leggings, a cloth cap, and carries a sword. They parade through the town to the music of traditional bands, until they reach the City Hall, and the leader of the boulouki asks permission from the Mayor to begin the ceremony. They then go to the main square, where the dancing begins. After the dances, the boules go from house to house collecting donations.

This specific mask was danced by Gregory Tararas (Naoussa, 1985- ) for four years, from 2009-2012.

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