TITLE: Toreada Devil (Cyclops) Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: San Luís Potosí
ETHNICITY: Tenek
DESCRIPTION: Devil mask in the form of a cyclops
MAKER: Carlos Victor Larrage Gómez (1969- , Tanlajás)
CEREMONY: Toreada de los Diablos (Holy Week)
AGE: 2019
MAIN MATERIAL: pemoches wood (Erythrina americana)
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint

The Toreada de los Diablos (Bullfight of the Devils) of Tanlajás, San Luís Potosí, is a ritual performed that has been performed by the male inhabitants of the town during the Semana Santa (Holy Week) since at least the 1880s in its modern incarnation. The diablos wear a variety of Xantolo-type masks that, although they are supposed to represent “devils,” may also appear as skulls, monkeys, clowns, old men or women, or in any other form of (preferably ugly) character. The idea underlying the diversity of appearances is that the Devil, personification of evil, can take any form, and so a Christian must be constantly on guard. Historically, the devils policed the church to ensure nobody was drinking or otherwise violating social rules. During the ritual today, the devils attempt to whip the legs of the “toreador” (bullfighter) with rawhide whips called chirriones. The toreador defends himself with a short stick (about 60 cm) and his own agility. The toreador tries constantly to approach the devil to reduce the force of the whip and to tap the devil’s face with his stick. In the past, the ritual was even more violent, with the toreador attempting to break the mask with his stick, until he succeeded or was disabled by whip wounds. The purpose of breaking the mask was twofold, both to punish the devil and to reveal who was wearing the mask (with the result that the other devils would rally around him to hide his identity). Today, the stick blow to the mask is only symbolic, but the wounds sustained by the toreador in the course of the ritual are quite real and often severe. They are intended for the participant to share in Jesus’s suffering. In consequence, there is much beer drinking among them to help dull the pain.

On Easter Sunday, the final day of the Toreada, all the devils parade around the village with the Mono (monkey) astride a donkey. The Mono is not a monkey at all, but an anthropomorphic figure dressed as a devil (with mask, boots, a jumpsuit, overalls, boots, hat, and a whip), filled with gunpowder, fireworks, and sawdust. The devils parade with the monkey to announce the culmination of the Toreada in the evening. The Mono is symbolically hung before the final Toreada performance, and the devils read a “will” that was prepared beforehand with satiric, humorous content, poking fun of the pecadillos of the villagers. The Mono is then burned to signal the end of the ritual, with explosions and rockets, to symbolize the triumph of good over evil.

It is possible that the Toreada de los Diablos is a syncretic tradition coopted by the Catholic church, which may have begun as a war ritual of the Tenek people as they prepared to defend themselves against the neighboring Nahua. The imperialistic Catholic missionaries, as they often did in the New World, re-formulated the tradition into the mold of the Catholic world view, which simplifies the universe into a Manichean struggle of good (the toreadores) versus evil (the diablos).

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TITLE: Toreada Devil (Cyclops) Mask
TYPE: face mask; accessory
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: San Luís Potosí
ETHNICITY: Tenek
DESCRIPTION: Devil mask in the form of a cyclops
MAKER: Carlos Victor Larrage Gómez (1969- , Tanlajás)
CEREMONY: Toreada de los Diablos (Holy Week)
AGE: 2022
MAIN MATERIAL: pemoches wood (Erythrina americana)
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint

The Toreada de los Diablos (Bullfight of the Devils) of Tanlajás, San Luís Potosí, is a ritual performed that has been performed by the male inhabitants of the town during the Semana Santa (Holy Week) since at least the 1880s in its modern incarnation. The diablos wear a variety of Xantolo-type masks that, although they are supposed to represent “devils,” may also appear as skulls, monkeys, clowns, old men or women, or in any other form of (preferably ugly) character. The idea underlying the diversity of appearances is that the Devil, personification of evil, can take any form, and so a Christian must be constantly on guard. Historically, the devils policed the church to ensure nobody was drinking or otherwise violating social rules. During the ritual today, the devils attempt to whip the legs of the “toreador” (bullfighter) with rawhide whips called chirriones. The toreador defends himself with a short stick (about 60 cm) and his own agility. The stick here is made from wood of the Brazilian orchid tree (Bauhinia forficata). The toreador tries constantly to approach the devil to reduce the force of the whip and to tap the devil’s face with his stick. In the past, the ritual was even more violent, with the toreador attempting to break the mask with his stick, until he succeeded or was disabled by whip wounds. The purpose of breaking the mask was twofold, both to punish the devil and to reveal who was wearing the mask (with the result that the other devils would rally around him to hide his identity). Today, the stick blow to the mask is only symbolic, but the wounds sustained by the toreador in the course of the ritual are quite real and often severe. They are intended for the participant to share in Jesus’s suffering. In consequence, there is much beer drinking among them to help dull the pain.

On Easter Sunday, the final day of the Toreada, all the devils parade around the village with the Mono (monkey) astride a donkey. The Mono is not a monkey at all, but an anthropomorphic figure dressed as a devil (with mask, boots, a jumpsuit, overalls, boots, hat, and a whip), filled with gunpowder, fireworks, and sawdust. The devils parade with the monkey to announce the culmination of the Toreada in the evening. The Mono is symbolically hung before the final Toreada performance, and the devils read a “will” that was prepared beforehand with satiric, humorous content, poking fun of the pecadillos of the villagers. The Mono is then burned to signal the end of the ritual, with explosions and rockets, to symbolize the triumph of good over evil.

It is possible that the Toreada de los Diablos is a syncretic tradition coopted by the Catholic church, which may have begun as a war ritual of the Tenek people as they prepared to defend themselves against the neighboring Nahua. The imperialistic Catholic missionaries, as they often did in the New World, re-formulated the tradition into the mold of the Catholic world view, which simplifies the universe into a Manichean struggle of good (the toreadores) versus evil (the diablos).

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TITLE: Pecado Mayor Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Spain
SUBREGION: Castile-La Mancha
ETHNICITY: Spanish (Iberian)
DESCRIPTION: Pecado Mayor (Elder Sin) Mask
MAKER: Julio Naranjo Palomo (Camuñas, Spain, 1941- )
CEREMONY: Corpus Christi
FUNCTION: Adult Initiation; Celebration; Secret Society
AGE: 2022
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: goat horns; adhesive; paint; satin ribbons; elastic strap

The Corpus Christi celebration of Camuñas, Spain, embodies a tradition hundreds of years old. The celebration is organized by fraternities (hermandades) of “Dancers” (Danzantes) and “Sins” (Pecados). In its broadest sense, the tradition represents a drama of redemption, the triumph of divine grace over sin. The celebration begins with the Danzantes parading through the streets of Camuñas with masks off, jingling tambourines and playing a drum and a unique percussion wood block called la porra. Leading the group is a Capitán carrying a short spear decorated with ribbons. Accompanying them are a standard-bearer with the fraternity’s symbols and a (male) dancer wearing women’s clothes, playing castanets, and wearing a unique mask called the Madama. The Danzantes follow a predetermined, decorated path through town, stopping periodically for refreshments at the homes of the group’s leaders. The leaders after the capitán, in order of seniority, are the Mayor (Alcalde), Elder Jew (Judío Mayor), and the Twine (Cordel).

The Danzantes finally make their way to the headquarters of the Pecados, who greet them in a double file wearing their horned masks. The Pecados carry a decorated staff (la vara) and are organized hierarchically into the senior authority, the Little Sin (Pecailla, or Pecadilla), the Belt (Correa), the Elder Sin (Pecado Mayor), and the Alternate Belt (Suplente Correa). Also included are initiates (novicios).  The Pecailla and Pecado Mayor each have a unique mask, which, together with the common Danzantes, Pecados, and Madama, makes five types of mask used in the celebration.

After enjoying refreshments again, the Danzantes and Pecados parade together across town toward the curate’s house, where they are joined by women in traditional Spanish dress who, with the standard-bearer and a cross-bearer, accompany the curate. The Danzantes form a double line down the street, and the pecados one by one run up the street toward the curate with their masks on, jumping at the end and kneeling before him. They then remove their masks and receive a blessing from the curate.

On the day of Corpus Christi, the same procedure is followed, but afterward the Danzantes and Pecados parade to the church. The Danzantes alone enter the church and parade through the nave, after which they form a double line in the church plaza outside, between the town clock tower and an altar and reliquary at the rear of the church. They all kneel before the altar, then the Danzantes dance, during which the Pecados individually charge toward the altar, leaping and kneeling before the reliquary and removing their mask. The group then continues to parade together through town, performing one last series of charges toward the curate and returning to their fraternity headquarters.

On the day after Corpus Christi, the initiates are dressed in rags and taken to the town windmill in a straw-covered cart, which is symbolically burned while the initiates are symbolically hung using a safety harness in a ritual called La Horca (The Gallows). La Horca is a form of initiation into the fraternities. The townspeople celebrate the intiation with water fights, and traditionally the hung initiate is thoroughly doused with water, somewhat reminiscent of the way Catholic priests convey blessings or baptism by spraying holy water with an aspergillum.

This mask was donated to the Museum through the generosity of the City of Camuñas and its Centro de Interpretación Danzantes y Pecados.


Click here to watch a short documentary on the Corpus Christi celebration of Camuñas, Spain.

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TITLE: Pecado Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Spain
SUBREGION: Castile-La Mancha
ETHNICITY: Spanish (Iberian)
DESCRIPTION: Pecado (Sin) Mask
MAKER: Julio Naranjo Palomo (Camuñas, Spain, 1941- )
CEREMONY: Corpus Christi
FUNCTION: Adult Initiation; Celebration; Secret Society
AGE: 2022
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: goat horns; adhesive; paint; satin ribbons; elastic strap

The Corpus Christi celebration of Camuñas, Spain, embodies a tradition hundreds of years old. The celebration is organized by fraternities (hermandades) of “Dancers” (Danzantes) and “Sins” (Pecados). In its broadest sense, the tradition represents a drama of redemption, the triumph of divine grace over sin. The celebration begins with the Danzantes parading through the streets of Camuñas with masks off, jingling tambourines and playing a drum and a unique percussion wood block called la porra. Lead the group is a Capitán carrying a short spear decorated with ribbons. Accompanying them are a standard-bearer with the fraternity’s symbols and a (male) dancer wearing women’s clothes, playing castanets, and wearing a unique mask called the Madama. The Danzantes follow a predetermined, decorated path through town, stopping periodically for refreshments at the homes of the group’s leaders. The leaders after the capitán, in order of seniority, are the Mayor (Alcalde), Elder Jew (Judío Mayor), and the Twine (Cordel).

The Danzantes finally make their way to the headquarters of the Pecados, who greet them in a double file wearing their horned masks. The Pecados carry a decorated staff (la vara) and are organized hierarchically into the senior authority, the Little Sin (Pecailla, or Pecadilla), the Belt (Correa), the Elder Sin (Pecado Mayor), and the Alternate Belt (Suplente Correa). Also included are initiates (novicios).  The Pecailla and Pecado Mayor each have a unique mask, which, together with the common Danzantes, Pecados, and Madama, makes five types of mask used in the celebration.

After enjoying refreshments again, the Danzantes and Pecados parade together across town toward the curate’s house, where they are joined by women in traditional Spanish dress who, with the standard-bearer and a cross-bearer, accompany the curate. The Danzantes form a double line down the street, and the pecados one by one run up the street toward the curate with their masks on, jumping at the end and kneeling before him. They then remove their masks and receive a blessing from the curate.

On the day of Corpus Christi, the same procedure is followed, but afterward the Danzantes and Pecados parade to the church. The Danzantes alone enter the church and parade through the nave, after which they form a double line in the church plaza outside, between the town clock tower and an altar and reliquary at the rear of the church. They all kneel before the altar, then the Danzantes dance, during which the Pecados individually charge toward the altar, leaping and kneeling before the reliquary and removing their mask. The group then continues to parade together through town, performing one last series of charges toward the curate and returning to their fraternity headquarters.

On the day after Corpus Christi, the initiates are dressed in rags and taken to the town windmill in a straw-covered cart, which is symbolically burned while the initiates are symbolically hung using a safety harness in a ritual called La Horca (The Gallows). La Horca is a form of initiation into the fraternities. The townspeople celebrate the intiation with water fights, and traditionally the hung initiate is thoroughly doused with water, somewhat reminiscent of the way Catholic priests convey blessings or baptism by spraying holy water with an aspergillum.

This mask was donated to the Museum through the generosity of the City of Camuñas and its Centro de Interpretación Danzantes y Pecados.


Click here to watch a short documentary on the Corpus Christi celebration of Camuñas, Spain.

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TITLE: Danzante Mask and Tambourine
TYPE: face mask; accessory
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Spain
SUBREGION: Castile-La Mancha
ETHNICITY: Spanish (Iberian)
DESCRIPTION: Danzante Mask and Tambourine
MAKER (Mask): Julio Naranjo Palomo (Camuñas, Spain, 1941- )
MAKER (Tambourine): Ángel Cano Santa Cruz (Camuñas, Spain, 1945- )
CEREMONY: Corpus Christi
FUNCTION: Adult Initiation; Celebration; Secret Society
AGE: 2022
MAIN MATERIAL (Mask): paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS (Mask): cork nose; adhesive; paint; elastic strap
MATERIALS (Tambourine): Alla wood; brass cymbals; leather; brass wire; adhesive; brass hardware; dyed cloth

The Corpus Christi celebration of Camuñas, Spain, embodies a tradition hundreds of years old. The celebration is organized by fraternities (hermandades) of “Dancers” (Danzantes) and “Sins” (Pecados). In its broadest sense, the tradition represents a drama of redemption, the triumph of divine grace over sin. The celebration begins with the Danzantes parading through the streets of Camuñas with masks off, jingling tambourines and playing a drum and a unique percussion wood block called la porra. Leading the group is a Capitán carrying a short spear decorated with ribbons. Accompanying them are a standard-bearer with the fraternity’s symbols and a (male) dancer wearing women’s clothes, playing castanets, and wearing a unique mask called the Madama. The Danzantes follow a predetermined, decorated path through town, stopping periodically for refreshments at the homes of the group’s leaders. The leaders after the capitán, in order of seniority, are the Mayor (Alcalde), Elder Jew (Judío Mayor), and the Twine (Cordel).

The Danzantes finally make their way to the headquarters of the Pecados, who greet them in a double file wearing their horned masks. The Pecados carry a decorated staff (la vara) and are organized hierarchically into the senior authority, the Little Sin (Pecailla, or Pecadilla), the Belt (Correa), the Elder Sin (Pecado Mayor), and the Alternate Belt (Suplente Correa). Also included are initiates (novicios).  The Pecailla and Pecado Mayor each have a unique mask, which, together with the common Danzantes, Pecados, and Madama, makes five types of mask used in the celebration.

After enjoying refreshments again, the Danzantes and Pecados parade together across town toward the curate’s house, where they are joined by women in traditional Spanish dress who, with the standard-bearer and a cross-bearer, accompany the curate. The Danzantes form a double line down the street, and the pecados one by one run up the street toward the curate with their masks on, jumping at the end and kneeling before him. They then remove their masks and receive a blessing from the curate.

On the day of Corpus Christi, the same procedure is followed, but afterward the Danzantes and Pecados parade to the church. The Danzantes alone enter the church and parade through the nave, after which they form a double line in the church plaza outside, between the town clock tower and an altar and reliquary at the rear of the church. They all kneel before the altar, then the Danzantes dance, during which the Pecados individually charge toward the altar, leaping and kneeling before the reliquary and removing their mask. The group then continues to parade together through town, performing one last series of charges toward the curate and returning to their fraternity headquarters.

On the day after Corpus Christi, the initiates are dressed in rags and taken to the town windmill in a straw-covered cart, which is symbolically burned while the initiates are symbolically hung using a safety harness in a ritual called La Horca (The Gallows). La Horca is a form of initiation into the fraternities. The townspeople celebrate the intiation with water fights, and traditionally the hung initiate is thoroughly doused with water, somewhat reminiscent of the way Catholic priests convey blessings or baptism by spraying holy water with an aspergillum.

This mask was donated to the Museum through the generosity of the City of Camuñas and its Centro de Interpretación Danzantes y Pecados.


Click here to watch a short documentary on the Corpus Christi celebration of Camuñas, Spain.

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TITLE: Temne Bundu Mask
TYPE: crest mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Sierra Leone
ETHNICITY: Temne
DESCRIPTION: Bundu Society Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Bundu Society
AGE: ca. 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The Temne people of Sierra Leone is unusual in having a female secret society with a masking tradition exclusively its own.  The Bundu Society uses a-Nowo crest masks during girls’ initiation rituals involving adulthood and genital mutilation. The mask represents the Temne conception of an ideal woman. The a-Nowo dancer wears the mask atop the head with a full body costume of dark raffia fiber attached, so that no part of the dancer is visible. A-Nowo masked dancers may also appear at important social events, such as visits of foreign dignitaries and funerals of important members of society. Men carve the mask but cannot participate in the ritual.

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TITLE: Baining Anguangi Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Papua New Guinea
SUBREGION: East New Britain Islands
ETHNICITY: Melanesian (Baining)
DESCRIPTION: Uramot Anguangi Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Night (Atut) Fire Dance
FUNCTION: Adult Initiation; Agriculture; Celebration; Funeral; Spirit Invocation
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: tapa cloth
OTHER MATERIALS: bamboo; vines; pigment from chewed roots and coconut husk ash

The Baining people live in eastern New Britain Island area known as the Gazelle Peninsula, in a mountainous tropical forest.  They are a Melanesian people closely akin to other groups in Papua New Guinea.  They traditionally live in small villages with dispersed political authority.  The Baining use their masks to unify the otherwise dispersed villagers, usually in celebrations of major events such as yam harvest, births, deaths, or adult initiation for both boys and girls.  Some dances are for the day time, mostly those centered around female tasks such as sowing, harvesting, and births.  Atut dances, also called fire dances because they’re performed around a bonfire, are held at night and center around male activities such as hunting.

The masks are mostly made of mulberry or breadfruit tree bark mashed and pounded into a cloth (“tapa cloth”) over bamboo frames.   This specific mask, the anguangi or atutki, is used in night dances by the Uramot group of Baining people. Unlike other Baining masks, the anguangi is usually retained in the house and not discarded after the ceremony.

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TITLE: Yaka Kholuka Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Congo, Dem. Rep. of
ETHNICITY: Yaka
DESCRIPTION: Kholuka Makunda Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Makunda (N’khanda)
FUNCTION: Adult Initiation
AGE: ca. 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: split cane; cotton cloth; resin; raffia; natural pigments

The Yaka people of Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have a male initiation society known as Makunda or N’khanda, which is charged with circumcising, hazing, and teaching boys to become a man (mainly, education in hunting and sex).  During the circumcision dance performances (kinkanda), the initiates wear special masks while their teachers alone are permitted to wear the ritual masks of the Makunda. After initiation, the boys are led out of seclusion and back into the community.  Before festivities can begin, the head teacher (kahyuudi or kayudi) commissions a carver (nkalaweeni or mvumbwa) to create a series of masks. Many types of masks are worn or danced in succession during the final initiation feast:

  • Kambaandzya (a raffia cloth domed helmet mask with a brim bisecting it; the mask is covered in black resin and painted with geometric designs in red, white, blue, and yellow)
  • Tsekedi (a leather or raffia cloth helmet mask with a white, human face and a series of horizontal discs on an inverted cone topping the helmet)
  • Mweelu (a helmet made of braided raffia fiber with large numbers of feathers; birdlike eyes in wood, gourd or bamboo; and a hornbill beak for a mouth)
  • Ndeemba (an abstract human face with bulging eyes carved of wood; many phallic rods come out of the helmet in all directions, including the inverted cone on the very top)
  • Kholuka (a polychrome human face with bulging eyes, and an open mouth showing the teeth, carved of wood; horizontal discs on an inverted cone come from the top, with bird feathers, and polychrome figures of humans or animals)

The kholuka, also known as a mbaala, is worn either by the leader of the initiation or the senior initiate.  It is the last danced, and it is danced alone to signal the end of the initiation ceremony. Unlike the other masked dances, which are entertaining to the audience, the kholuka creates a sense of unease due to the overtly sexual behavior of the dancer.

There are also masks not danced by initiates, known as Kakuungu. This mask is a large, long face mask with a distorted human-like face having bulbous chin, cheeks, and forehead.  It is thought to represent an ancestor and is danced by the herbal shaman to stop bleeding after the circumcision. Similarly, the mbawa, a mouthless helmet mask of raffia cloth over an ovular structure of split cane, with horn s to symbolize the pakasa buffalo, is not danced by initiates.

For more on Yaka masquerade, see Arthur P. Bourgeois, Art of the Yaka and Suku (1984).

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TITLE: Pende Giphogo (Kipoko) Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Democratic Republic of the Congo
ETHNICITY: Eastern Pende
DESCRIPTION: Giphogo (Kipoko) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Mukanda Ritual
FUNCTION: Adult Initiation; Protection; Purification; Social Control; Spirit Invocation; Status
AGE: ca. 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: cloth; string; pigment

The Pende people have many different kinds of masks they wear, especially at adult initiation rituals and funerals. The word giphogo (or kipoko) means “sword wielder” and is a symbol of power among the Eastern Pende. The mask is kept in the chief’s home, and only chiefs are allowed to authorize dance with this type of mask on the occasion of initiations and rituals of the ancestor cult of the Eastern Pende. It represent the village chief as intermediary between the living and the dead, and its uses include protection from evil spirits; prayers or thanks for successful harvests and tribal fertility; to identify and punish sorcerers; and adult initiation during mukanda rituals. As he dances, the kipoko dancer makes semicircular kicks to protect the village against evil spirits or sorcerers and to purify their illnesses.

The masquerader carries one or two flywhisks made of animal hair, which are used to mimic agricultural work or to purify the village grounds.

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TITLE: Kwele Helmet Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Gabon
ETHNICITY: Kwele
DESCRIPTION: Ekuk Helmet Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Be’ete Society
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin clay; pigment; raffia fiber

The Kwele, also known as Kwese, people of Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo now live between the Dja and Ivindo rivers. Social control is exercised by the Be’ete Secret Society, which uses masks to adult initiation rituals, funerals, and protection of the village from malicious spirits.  The masks embody protective bush spirits, with the antelope a dominant presence among them.  Kaolin clay is nearly always used in Kwele masks, because its white color has spiritual meaning to the Kwele.

This specific mask represents an ekuk, or forest spirit, of a lion.

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