TITLE: Diablico Sucio Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Panama
SUBREGION: Azuero Peninsula
ETHNICITY: Afro-Latino
DESCRIPTION: Green Iguana Diablico Sucio Mask
MAKER: José del Carmen González Santana (Chitré, 1959- )
CEREMONY: Danza de los Diablicos Sucios (Corpus Christi)
FUNCTION: celebration; entertainment
AGE: 2019
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: wood spines; airbrush paint; cotton shoelaces

In the Azuero Peninsula and other parts of Panama, villagers perform several group dances before and during the celebration of Corpus Christi.  The best known of these is the dance of the Diablicos Sucios (dirty little devils), men and boys dressed in striped costumes, wearing large, paper maché masks with bright headdresses of macaw feathers attached to a leather cone strapped to the back of the head. The costume is traditionally colored red and black, made from alternating stripes of achiote (annatto) and charcoal. The devils dance to the music of a guitar and they always carry castanets, a dried cow bladder, and a whip for striking the bladder (and fending off drunken revelers who might interfere with the dance). Generally, the dance first takes place in the street, from the church around the plaza, after which the dancers might appear in specific homes at the request of the resident for a private dance in exchange for food or money.  The dancers sometimes chew on ginger to cleanse their bodies, but the appellation “dirty” comes from the foul smell of the cow bladder and the sweat from prolonged dancing in the tropical summer sun.

Other dances popular on Corpus Christi in the peninsula include the Diablicos Limpios (clean little devils), who wear flowers instead of feathers and dance with a waistband of colorful handkerchiefs to an orchestra of flute, accordion and triangle, and Diablicos Espejos (little devils with mirrors).

This specific mask represents the locally common green iguana and was danced by Hector Quintero in the 2019 Corpus Christi celebration of Chitré.

For more on the folk masks of Panama, see Julio Arosemena Moreno, Danzas Folklóricas de la Villa de los Santos (Instituto Nacional de Cultura de Panamá 1994).


Click above to watch a short documentary film about the diablicos sucios of Panama.

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TITLE: Diablico Sucio Mask (Child’s)
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Panama
SUBREGION: Azuero Peninsula
ETHNICITY: Afro-Latino
DESCRIPTION: Diablico Sucio Mask
MAKER: Jorge Luis López (Parita, 1978- )
CEREMONY: Danza de los Diablicos Sucios (Corpus Christi)
FUNCTION: celebration; entertainment
AGE: 2018
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: plaster; plastic balls; American crocodile teeth; oil-based paint; adhesive; cotton shoelaces

In the Azuero Peninsula and other parts of Panama, villagers perform several group dances before and during the celebration of Corpus Christi.  The best known of these is the dance of the Diablicos Sucios (dirty little devils), men and boys dressed in striped costumes, wearing large, paper maché masks with bright headdresses of macaw feathers attached to a leather cone strapped to the back of the head. The costume is traditionally colored red and black, made from alternating stripes of achiote (annatto) and charcoal. The devils dance to the music of a guitar and they always carry castanets, a dried cow bladder, and a whip for striking the bladder (and fending off drunken revelers who might interfere with the dance). Generally, the dance first takes place in the street, from the church around the plaza, after which the dancers might appear in specific homes at the request of the resident for a private dance in exchange for food or money.  The dancers sometimes chew on ginger to cleanse their bodies, but the appellation “dirty” comes from the foul smell of the cow bladder and the sweat from prolonged dancing in the tropical summer sun.

Other dances popular on Corpus Christi in the peninsula include the Diablicos Limpios (clean little devils), who wear flowers instead of feathers and dance with a waistband of colorful handkerchiefs to an orchestra of flute, accordion and triangle, and Diablicos Espejos (little devils with mirrors).

This specific mask was danced by the toddler son of the maker in the 2018 and 2019 Corpus Christi celebrations by the Parita group Danza Francisco López, led by the child’s grandfather, Dario López.

For more on the folk masks of Panama, see Julio Arosemena Moreno, Danzas Folklóricas de la Villa de los Santos (Instituto Nacional de Cultura de Panamá 1994).


Click above to watch a short documentary film about the diablicos sucios of Panama.

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TITLE: Emberá Toucan Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Panama
SUBREGION: Darien
ETHNICITY: Emberá
DESCRIPTION: Tucán (Toucan) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Healing; Purification
AGE: 2017
MAIN MATERIAL: dyed palm fibers
OTHER MATERIALS: N/A

The Emberá people belong to the Chocó ethnic group along with the Wounaan people inhabit parts of southern Panama and northern Colombia.  They weave remarkable animal spirit masks from the dyed fibers of the black chunga plant (black palm, Astrocaryum standleyanum). Shamans (jaibaná) use these masks in healing and village purification rituals, during which they will be hung from the house posts or worn.

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TITLE: Diablico Sucio Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Panama
SUBREGION: Azuero Peninsula
ETHNICITY: Afro-Latino
DESCRIPTION: Diablico Sucio Mask
MAKER: José del Carmen González Santana (Chitré, 1959- )
CEREMONY: Danza de los Diablicos Sucios (Corpus Christi)
FUNCTION: celebration; entertainment
AGE: 2019
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: styrofoam; wood teeth; airbrush paint; cotton shoelaces

In the Azuero Peninsula and other parts of Panama, villagers perform several group dances before and during the celebration of Corpus Christi.  The best known of these is the dance of the Diablicos Sucios (dirty little devils), men and boys dressed in striped costumes, wearing large, paper maché masks with bright headdresses of macaw feathers attached to a leather cone strapped to the back of the head. The costume is traditionally colored red and black, made from alternating stripes of achiote (annatto) and charcoal. The devils dance to the music of a guitar and they always carry castanets, a dried cow bladder, and a whip for striking the bladder (and fending off drunken revelers who might interfere with the dance). Generally, the dance first takes place in the street, from the church around the plaza, after which the dancers might appear in specific homes at the request of the resident for a private dance in exchange for food or money.  The dancers sometimes chew on ginger to cleanse their bodies, but the appellation “dirty” comes from the foul smell of the cow bladder and the sweat from prolonged dancing in the tropical summer sun.

Other dances popular on Corpus Christi in the peninsula include the Diablicos Limpios (clean little devils), who wear flowers instead of feathers and dance with a waistband of colorful handkerchiefs to an orchestra of flute, accordion and triangle, and Diablicos Espejos (little devils with mirrors).

This specific mask was danced by José Cigarita in the 2019 Corpus Christi celebration of Chitré.

For more on the folk masks of Panama, see Julio Arosemena Moreno, Danzas Folklóricas de la Villa de los Santos (Instituto Nacional de Cultura de Panamá 1994).


Click above to watch a short documentary film about the diablicos sucios of Panama.

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TITLE: Diablico Sucio Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Panama
SUBREGION: Azuero Peninsula
ETHNICITY: Afro-Latino
DESCRIPTION: Diablico Sucio Mask
MAKER: Jorge Luis López (Parita, 1978- )
CEREMONY: Danza de los Diablicos Sucios (Corpus Christi)
FUNCTION: celebration; entertainment
AGE: 2014
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: plaster; ping-pong balls; wood teeth; oil-based paint; adhesive; cotton shoelaces

In the Azuero Peninsula and other parts of Panama, villagers perform several group dances before and during the celebration of Corpus Christi.  The best known of these is the dance of the Diablicos Sucios (dirty little devils), men and boys dressed in striped costumes, wearing large, paper maché masks with bright headdresses of macaw feathers attached to a leather cone strapped to the back of the head. The costume is traditionally colored red and black, made from alternating stripes of achiote (annatto) and charcoal. The devils dance to the music of a guitar and they always carry castanets, a dried cow bladder, and a whip for striking the bladder (and fending off drunken revelers who might interfere with the dance). Generally, the dance first takes place in the street, from the church around the plaza, after which the dancers might appear in specific homes at the request of the resident for a private dance in exchange for food or money.  The dancers sometimes chew on ginger to cleanse their bodies, but the appellation “dirty” comes from the foul smell of the cow bladder and the sweat from prolonged dancing in the tropical summer sun.

Other dances popular on Corpus Christi in the peninsula include the Diablicos Limpios (clean little devils), who wear flowers instead of feathers and dance with a waistband of colorful handkerchiefs to an orchestra of flute, accordion and triangle, and Diablicos Espejos (little devils with mirrors).

This specific mask was danced by its maker from 2014 until 2019 in the Parita group Danza Francisco López, led by his father, Dario López.

For more on the folk masks of Panama, see Julio Arosemena Moreno, Danzas Folklóricas de la Villa de los Santos (Instituto Nacional de Cultura de Panamá 1994).


Click above to watch a short documentary film about the diablicos sucios of Panama.

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TITLE: Guaimíe Cucuá Devil Mask (Child’s)
TYPE: face mask with pañoleta; costume; whip
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Panama
SUBREGION: Coclé
ETHNICITY: Guaimíe (Ngobe-Buglé)
DESCRIPTION: Cucuá Devil Mask and Costume for Child
MAKER: María José Rodríguez (San Miguel Centro, 1955- ); Gabriel Morán (San Miguel Centro, 1966- ); Julio Ovalle (San Miguel Centro, 1990- )
CEREMONY: Danza de los Diablos (Dance of the Devils)
FUNCTION: Celebration; Entertainment
AGE: 2018
MAIN MATERIAL (mask): tapa cloth from white Cucuá tree bark
OTHER MATERIALS (mask): tapa cloth from red Cucuá tree bark; Vejuco Verde stick frame; Pita palm string; wild boar jaw; white-tailed deer antlers; vegetable dyes
MAIN MATERIAL (costume): tapa cloth from white Cucuá tree bark
OTHER MATERIALS (costume): Pita palm string; vegetable dyes; cacique seed buttons, leather sandals; cacique wood stick with leather strap; mounted on a balsa wood figure with vegetable dyes and hardware

The Guaimíe (today called Ngobe-Buglé) people inhabit the north-central region of Panama.  Although they have largely become mixed in race and ethnicity, those living in the Coclé region have recently revived their traditional dance, today known as the Danza de los Diablos (Dance of the Devils). The dance actually is a form of worship of traditional animist gods; the reference to “devils” was bestowed by Catholic missionaries, who equated all indigenous religions in Latin America as “devil worship.”

The dance is held every March and is performed in large groups of both adults and children, to the music of violin, drum, rattle, and guitar. Dancers wear full suits made of cloth made from pounded bark of the Cucuá tree, decorated with symbols and a triangular motif that represents the scales of the snake-god formerly worshiped by the indigenous people.  They carry a whip made of a sturdy cacique wood pole and leather straps, and as they dance they shout out invocations of the nature spirit they represent.  The masks and costumes are made entirely from natural materials found locally.  Even the paints are made from vegetable dyes, with guaymi leaves providing the red tint, turmeric the yellow, mucuna vine seeds (“deer-eye beans”) the black, and chile pepper leaves the green.  Buttons are made from seeds from the cacique tree.

This mask and full costume were made for a child dancer. A Guaimíe wood carver created the life-sized model for the Museum’s display.


Click above to watch a short documentary film about the Cucuá devils of Panama.

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TITLE: Parrampán Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Panama
SUBREGION: Azuero Peninsula
ETHNICITY: Afro-Latino
DESCRIPTION: Parrampán (Male) Mask
MAKER: José del Carmen González Santana (Chitré, 1959- )
CEREMONY: Danza de las Mojigangas y los Parrampanes (Corpus Christi)
FUNCTION: celebration; entertainment
AGE: 2019
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: plastic balls; paint; elastic bands

The Dance of the Mojigangas and Parrampanes is a Panamanian tradition in the Azuero Peninsula during Corpus Christi celebrations and sometimes during Carnival. Each group is composed of drag dancers.  The mojigangas are men dressed as women, and parrampanes are women dressed as men.  They typically dance to the music of a flute, drum and accordeon, and their role is to clown around and satirize local public figures, such as the mayor, curate, recently wedded couples, etc.  Unlike other dancers, the mojigangas and parrampanes never enter the church in masquerade, as they are considered profane.

For more on the folk masks of Panama, see Julio Arosemena Moreno, Danzas Folklóricas de la Villa de los Santos (Instituto Nacional de Cultura de Panamá 1994).

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TITLE: Guaimíe Cucuá Devil Mask
TYPE: face mask with pañoleta
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Panama
SUBREGION: Coclé
ETHNICITY: Guaimíe (Ngobe-Buglé)
DESCRIPTION: Cucuá Devil Mask
MAKER: María José Rodríguez (San Miguel Centro, 1955- )
CEREMONY: Danza de los Diablos (Dance of the Devils)
FUNCTION: Celebration; Entertainment
AGE: 2006
MAIN MATERIAL: tapa cloth from white Cucuá tree bark
OTHER MATERIALS: tapa cloth from red Cucuá tree bark; Vejuco Verde stick frame; Pita palm string; wild boar jaw; white-tailed deer antlers; vegetable dyes

The Guaimíe (today called Ngobe-Buglé) people inhabit the north-central region of Panama.  Although they have largely become mixed in race and ethnicity, those living in the Coclé region have recently revived their traditional dance, today known as the Danza de los Diablos (Dance of the Devils). The dance actually is a form of worship of traditional animist gods; the reference to “devils” was bestowed by Catholic missionaries, who equated all indigenous religions in Latin America as “devil worship.”

The dance is held every March and is performed in large groups of both adults and children, to the music of violin, drum, rattle, and guitar. Dancers wear full suits made of cloth made from pounded bark of the Cucuá tree, decorated with symbols and a triangular motif that represents the scales of the snake-god formerly worshiped by the indigenous people.  They carry a whip made of a sturdy cacique wood pole and leather straps, and as they dance they shout out invocations of the nature spirit they represent.  The masks and costumes are made entirely from natural materials found locally.  Even the paints are made from vegetable dyes, with guaymi leaves providing the red tint, turmeric the yellow, mucuna vine seeds (“deer-eye beans”) the black, and chile pepper leaves the green.  Buttons are made from seeds from the cacique tree.

This mask was danced by Gabriel Morán, son of the mask maker, from 2006 until 2018.  The pañoleta (decorated scarf hanging from the back) was replaced in 2013 due to the previous one wearing out.


Click above to watch a short documentary film about the Cucuá devils of Panama.

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TITLE: Bété N’gre Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Côte d’Ivoire
ETHNICITY: Bété
DESCRIPTION: N’gre Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Entertainment; Secret Society; Social Control; War Preparation
AGE: ca. 2000
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: iron tacks; kaolin; hardware; earth

The Bété people are closely related in ethnicity to their near neighbors, the We (Guere) and Dan peoples.  They live in the southwestern part of Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast).  The Bété were historically hunters and warriors, but today they are primarily agrarian.  The Bété religion aims to harmonize the life of the people with nature and the ancestor spirits who oversee the welfare of the tribe.  Most Bété maintain their animist belief system.  Although they pray to a creator god, they routinely seek help through sacrifice of animals and eggs to supernatural spirits, including ancestor spirits, nature spirits, and animal spirits.

Each Bété ritual focuses on the maintenance and care of good relations with the world of ancestors, so as to assure the protection of the lineages. The religious cults give rise to numerous mask performances accompanied by music. The apprenticeship of male adolescents in dancing societies revolves around mastering the arts of musical instruments, song, and masked dance.

Bété societies have three classes of masks: kuduo masks are the rarest and most sacred, because they mediate between the living and the dead. Many villages have no kuduo masks, and none possesses more than one.

The most common type of Bété mask is the n’gre, which historically was used in a ceremony for restoring peace after a war, purifying the village of evil spirits, and presiding over dispute settlement and the punishment of wrongdoers. It is thought the mask was also used in war preparation dances to give the wearer magical protection and to terrorize potential enemies. N’gre masks can be made for dancing by adults or for training by young boys. Unlike masks in many other African societies, n’gre masks are not strictly controlled in morphology.  Considerable creative variation occurs among different mask makers. The mask on display here is an adult n’gre.

For more on Bété masked dances, see Armistead P. Rood, “Bété Masked Dance: A View from Within,” 2(3) African Arts 37-43, 76 (1969).

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TITLE: Kanaval Tiger
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Caribbean
COUNTRY: Haiti
ETHNICITY: Afro-Haitian
DESCRIPTION: Tiger Mask
MAKER: Didier Civile, Jacmel
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: late 1990s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; rubber strap; string

In Haiti, the French-speaking descendants of African slaves celebrate Carnival (Kanaval) with parades and parties. Due to the extreme poverty of the great majority of Haitian people, masks and costumes are mostly handmade from recycled or easily available materials. There are stock characters that appear at most celebrations, such as Chaloska and the horned Lanse Kòds, but participants are free to invent their own costumes.  A few expert artisans, such as the one who made this mask, create more professional masks, but even these tend to be made of inexpensive materials, such as paper maché or wire mesh.

For more on Haitian Carnival, see Leah Gordon et al., Kanaval: Vodou, Politics and Revolution on the Streets of Haiti (London: Soul Jazz Pub., 2010).

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