TITLE: Harb Bedouin Mask
TYPE: face veil
GENERAL REGION: Middle East
COUNTRY: Saudi Arabia
SUBREGION: Arabian Peninsula (Bilad al-Sham)
ETHNICITY: Arab (Harb)
DESCRIPTION: Harb Bedouin Mask
MAKER: Unknown
FUNCTION: celebration; social control
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: cotton cloth
OTHER MATERIALS: stitching; silver ornaments

In the Hijaz (Islamic holy land), Arabic women of the Harb tribe wear the veil on certain occasions.  The Harb people are a Bedouin tribe living between western Saudi Arabia and Yemen.  The function of the veil is ostensibly to preserve female modesty, which allows male tribe members to control female bodies.  Such masks are not for everyday use; they would be too hot and heavy. They are worn during special events, such as weddings and feasts, and when strangers visit the camp.

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TITLE: Bedouin Niqab
TYPE: face veil
GENERAL REGION: Middle East
COUNTRY: Egypt
SUBREGION: Siwa Oasis
ETHNICITY: Berber
DESCRIPTION: Berber Bedouin Woman’s Niqab (Veil Mask)
MAKER: Unknown
FUNCTION: celebration; social control
AGE: 1952
MAIN MATERIAL: wool cloth
OTHER MATERIALS: glass beads; silver coins; silver plates; metal chains; stitching

In the western desert of Egypt, Berber women living in Bedouin societies sometimes wear masks or veils called niqab. The veils serve multiple functions, including protecting the women’s face from sun damage, filtering dust from the air, displaying adornment, and demonstrating wealth or status. The veil may also allow men to exercise social control over women’s bodies, maintaining their status as proprietary to fathers and husbands.  Not all Bedouian societies use the niqab, but those that do generally begin the practice after the woman or girl has been married.

The niqab worn by Bedouin women on special occasions are sometimes elaborately decorated with coins and beads, like this one.  Such masks are not for everyday use; they would be too hot and heavy. They are worn during special events, such as weddings and feasts.  This one comes from the Berber people in the Siwa Oasis, in the western Egyptian desert, and was worn by a Bedouin woman until her death in 1952.

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TITLE: Yaqui Chapayeka Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Sonora
ETHNICITY: Yaqui
DESCRIPTION: Chapayeka Mask
MAKER: Angel Almada González (Tepahui Quiriego, 1922-2019)
CEREMONY: Holy Week (Fariseo Dance-Drama)
FUNCTION: celebration; purification; social control
AGE: 2015
MAIN MATERIAL: goat leather and fur
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; plastic sheet; synthetic string

The Yaqui and related Mayo people inhabit the desert in the Mexican state of Sonora and southern Arizona. Their religious beliefs are a syncretic version of traditional animist practices and Jesuitical Catholicism. The fariseos (Mayo) or chapayekas (Yaqui) are an important society in both communities and are mainly active during the three months surrounding Holy Week. The fariseos in theory represent Pharisees, or the Jews (judios) who supposedly condemned Jesus (it was actually the Romans), and are always represented by leather helmets with wood or painted faces.

Fariseos are organized by a society, with each celebration having a fariseo cabo (head Pharisee) who goes unmasked and organizes the dancers. To join the fariseo society, an applicant must be endorsed by a godfather (padrino) who is already a fariseo, and a godmother (padrina) who is a singer.

Fariseos usually begin dancing for several hours at the houses where idols of saints are kept, and then they come to dance in the town ramadas in the plaza, where the pasko’olas, deer dancer, and coyote dancers have been dancing.

In some village ceremonies, the fariseos, representing evil, repeatedly attack the church and are repelled by Christians throwing flowers. In others, unmasked fariseos represent the Roman persecutors of Christ bearing wooden swords and have battles with masked Christian caballeros (cavalry). Ultimately, the fariseos are defeated and convert to Christianity.  In still other villages, the fariseos follow the procession of the icons of the church and mimic searching for Jesus. Dancing as a fariseo is believed to put the dancer in the good graces of Jesus. When the masked fariseos dance, the dancer holds a rosary with a cross in his mouth during the ceremony to ward off evil.

Normally, all fariseo masks except two are burned after Holy Week. More are made in preparation for the following year. The two that are preserved are kept to be buried with any member of the fariseo society who happens to die during that year. Once worn, the masks are considered sacred objects, because the fariseos pray while dancing.

During Holy Week, the fariseo society takes over most of the legal, police, and religious ceremonies of the Yaqui and Mayo villages. For example, working was traditionally prohibited on Ash Wednesday, and anyone caught working would be brought before the fariseo cabo and fined or, if he or she had no money, forced to drag a heavy mesquite cross along the procession route. At Lent, the fariseos go from house to house, collecting donations for the Fiesta de la Gloria and other religious celebrations.

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TITLE: Piaroa Kohue Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Brazil
SUBREGION: Orinoco River Basin
ETHNICITY: Piaroa
DESCRIPTION: Kohue (Vampire Bat) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Warime Ritual
AGE: 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: clay
OTHER MATERIALS: wicker; bark cloth; beeswax; pigment; dried grass

The Piaroa people inhabit the Orinoco River Basin region of Venezuela and northern Brazil. They are an extremely peaceful people with a political structure that anthropologists describe as nearly anarchic.

The warime ceremony is the biggest festival of Piaroa society. It includes a purification ritual in which masqueraders represent animal spirits and proclaim their deeds of the year to the tribe, good and bad, to seek respectively praise or forgiveness. This mask represents an animal spirit, specifically the Kohue (vampire bat).

Masqueraders must receive religious instruction from a shaman beforehand, and his incantation is accompanied by music on traditional instruments.

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TITLE: Lhakarpo Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Bhutan
SUBREGION: Western Bhutan
ETHNICITY: Ngalop
DESCRIPTION: Lhakarpo Mask
MAKER: Dwha Tshering, Thimpu
CEREMONY: Cham Dance
FUNCTION: Celebration; Entertainment; Social Control
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: plaster; paint

The Ngalop people inhabit western and central Bhutan and are originally of Tibetan origin. The ethnic group includes an estimated 710,000 persons.  The Ngalop are primarily Tibetan Buddhist, and their masks are typically worn at monastery celebrations known as Cham Dances to bless the sowing of the grain, pray for a bountiful harvest, and entertain the public.  This mask, representing the god Lhakarpo, who accompanies the god Choekyi Gyab (also known as Yama), the Lord of Death. Lhakarpo, who lived among men, assists Choekyi Gyab in judging the souls of the dead according to their good and evil deeds to determine how they will be reincarnated. Lhakarpo is considered the incarnation of good and advocate for mankind’s virtues. Along with his demonic counterpart, Due Nagpo (or Dey Nakchuag), he dances during and acts out morality plays for the education of the audience in Buddhist theology in the Raksha Mangcham, the Dance of the Judgment of the Dead.

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TITLE: Mayo Fariseo
TYPE: face mask portion of a helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Sinaloa
ETHNICITY: Mayo
DESCRIPTION: Judio (Fariseo) Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker in Mochicahui
CEREMONY: Holy Week (Fariseo Dance-Drama)
FUNCTION: celebration; purification; social control
AGE: ca. 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: metal wire mesh; glue; pigment

The Yaqui and related Mayo people inhabit the desert in the Mexican state of Sonora and southern Arizona. Their religious beliefs are a syncretic version of traditional animist practices and Jesuitical Catholicism. The fariseos (Mayo) or chapayekas (Yaqui) are an important society in both communities and are mainly active during the three months surrounding Holy Week. The fariseos in theory represent Pharisees, or the Jews (judios) who supposedly condemned Jesus (it was actually the Romans), and are always represented by leather helmets with wood or painted faces.

Fariseos are organized by a society, with each celebration having a fariseo cabo (head Pharisee) who goes unmasked and organizes the dancers. To join the fariseo society, an applicant must be endorsed by a godfather (padrino) who is already a fariseo, and a godmother (padrina) who is a singer.

Fariseos usually begin dancing for several hours at the houses where idols of saints are kept, and then they come to dance in the town ramadas in the plaza, where the pasko’olas, deer dancer, and coyote dancers have been dancing.

In some village ceremonies, the fariseos, representing evil, repeatedly attack the church and are repelled by Christians throwing flowers. In others, unmasked fariseos represent the Roman persecutors of Christ bearing wooden swords and have battles with masked Christian caballeros (cavalry). Ultimately, the fariseos are defeated and convert to Christianity.  In still other villages, the fariseos follow the procession of the icons of the church and mimic searching for Jesus. Dancing as a fariseo is believed to put the dancer in the good graces of Jesus. When the masked fariseos dance, the dancer holds a rosary with a cross in his mouth during the ceremony to ward off evil.

Normally, all fariseo masks except two are burned after Holy Week. More are made in preparation for the following year. The two that are preserved are kept to be buried with any member of the fariseo society who happens to die during that year. Once worn, the masks are considered sacred objects, because the fariseos pray while dancing.

During Holy Week, the fariseo society takes over most of the legal, police, and religious ceremonies of the Yaqui and Mayo villages. For example, working was traditionally prohibited on Ash Wednesday, and anyone caught working would be brought before the fariseo cabo and fined or, if he or she had no money, forced to drag a heavy mesquite cross along the procession route. At Lent, the fariseos go from house to house, collecting donations for the Fiesta de la Gloria and other religious celebrations.

This mask was formerly attached to a coyote pelt that was not properly cured and disintegrated over time.

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TITLE: Mayo Fariseo
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Sonora
ETHNICITY: Mayo
DESCRIPTION: Fariseo (Chapayeka) Mask
MAKER: Francisco Gamez, Masiaca (Navojoa, Sonora)
CEREMONY: Holy Week (Fariseo Dance-Drama)
FUNCTION: celebration; purification; social control
AGE: early 2010s
MAIN MATERIAL: javelina leather and fur
OTHER MATERIALS: wood; paint; string; hardware

The Yaqui and related Mayo people inhabit the desert in the Mexican state of Sonora and southern Arizona. Their religious beliefs are a syncretic version of traditional animist practices and Jesuitical Catholicism. The fariseos (Mayo) or chapayekas (Yaqui) are an important society in both communities and are mainly active during the three months surrounding Holy Week. The fariseos in theory represent Pharisees, or the Jews (judios) who supposedly condemned Jesus (it was actually the Romans), and are always represented by leather helmets with wood or painted faces.

Fariseos are organized by a society, with each celebration having a fariseo cabo (head Pharisee) who goes unmasked and organizes the dancers. To join the fariseo society, an applicant must be endorsed by a godfather (padrino) who is already a fariseo, and a godmother (padrina) who is a singer.

Fariseos usually begin dancing for several hours at the houses where idols of saints are kept, and then they come to dance in the town ramadas in the plaza, where the pasko’olas, deer dancer, and coyote dancers have been dancing.

In some village ceremonies, the fariseos, representing evil, repeatedly attack the church and are repelled by Christians throwing flowers. In others, unmasked fariseos represent the Roman persecutors of Christ bearing wooden swords and have battles with masked Christian caballeros (cavalry). Ultimately, the fariseos are defeated and convert to Christianity.  In still other villages, the fariseos follow the procession of the icons of the church and mimic searching for Jesus. Dancing as a fariseo is believed to put the dancer in the good graces of Jesus. When the masked fariseos dance, the dancer holds a rosary with a cross in his mouth during the ceremony to ward off evil.

Normally, all fariseo masks except two are burned after Holy Week. More are made in preparation for the following year. The two that are preserved are kept to be buried with any member of the fariseo society who happens to die during that year. Once worn, the masks are considered sacred objects, because the fariseos pray while dancing.

During Holy Week, the fariseo society takes over most of the legal, police, and religious ceremonies of the Yaqui and Mayo villages. For example, working was traditionally prohibited on Ash Wednesday, and anyone caught working would be brought before the fariseo cabo and fined or, if he or she had no money, forced to drag a heavy mesquite cross along the procession route. At Lent, the fariseos go from house to house, collecting donations for the Fiesta de la Gloria and other religious celebrations.

This mask is made of javelina leather and exaggerates the grotesque aspect of the fariseo by having a wooden penis emerge from and disappear into his mouth where his tongue would be, pulled by a string.

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TITLE: Nyelbum Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Bhutan
SUBREGION: Western Bhutan
ETHNICITY: Ngalop
DESCRIPTION: Nyelbum (Sinner) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Cham Dance
FUNCTION: Celebration; Entertainment; Social Control
AGE: 19th century
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: pigment; cloth ties

The Ngalop people inhabit western and central Bhutan and are originally of Tibetan origin. The ethnic group includes an estimated 710,000 persons.  The Ngalop are primarily Tibetan Buddhist, and their masks are typically worn at monastery celebrations known as Cham Dances to bless the sowing of the grain, pray for a bountiful harvest, and entertain the public.  This mask, representing Nyelbum, or Digchen Nyalwabum (the sinner). The Nyelbum plays a role in the Dance of the Stag and the Hunter, a story of the Buddhist saint Millarepa’s conversion to Buddhism (along with a deer and his dog). The Nyelbum is the assistant to Millarepa, and he also plays a role in collecting donations from the crowd during the Cham performance. During the Raksha Mangcham, the Dance of the Judgment of the Dead, Nyelbum plays an important role in the morality tale of the consequences of sin and virtue. Nyelbum appears before Shinjey Choekyi Gyelpo, the Lord of Death, with the black demon Due Nagpo and the white deity Lha Karpo to judge two dead souls, Nyelbum and Khimdag Palkyed. Nyelbum pleads his poverty and ignorance, but he is judged harshly and dragged off to Hell to expiate his sins. Khimdag Palkyed lived a virtuous and enlightened life and is led to Nirvana.

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TITLE: Dan Kran Kaogle
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Côte d’Ivoire
ETHNICITY: Kran (Dan)
DESCRIPTION: Gla Society Kaogle (Chimpanzee) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Entertainment; Secret Society; Social Control; War Preparation
AGE: ca. 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin; iron wire; leather straps

The Kran ethnic subgroup of the Dan people, and are also known as the We or Guere, living primarily in the Côte d’Ivoire.  The Gla secret society of the Kran people are charged with maintaining social control, including judicial functions, as well as officiating at harvest ceremonies and funerals.  The kaogle mask represents a chimpanzee spirit and invokes its strength and cunning, formerly to prepare for war and exercise social control. Today, its role is largely educational and for entertainment.

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TITLE: Diablo Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Totonicapán
ETHNICITY: Mayan
DESCRIPTION: Diablo (Devil) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Morality plays
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; nails; glass

Devil characters appear in several dance-dramas in Guatemala, mainly for entertainment or religious instruction.  In the San Cristobál Totonicapán, the Corrida de los Diablos (run of the devils) is a masked ceremony in which young men in body paint with devil masks charge through town to frighten the crowd.  In  the city of Totonicapán, where this mask originates, devils are used in morality plays, dealing with such Catholic Church-approved topics as the struggle between an angel and devil for the soul of a sinner.

For more on Guatemalan masks, see Jim Pieper, Guatemala’s Masks and Drama (University of New Mexico Press, 2006)

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