TITLE: Japanese Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Japan
SUBREGION: Kyoto Prefecture
ETHNICITY: Japanese
DESCRIPTION: Wood mask of unknown type
MAKER: Unknown workshop near Kyoto
CEREMONY: Unknown
AGE: 1985
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: string

This is a mask of an unknown type.  It may have been used in kyōgen, which is a form of short comedic play popular in small villages and used as an intermission between dramatic nōgaku plays.


To watch a short documentary about Japanese Nogaku (Noh drama and Kyogen plays), click above.

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TITLE: Sumba Island Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Indonesia
SUBREGION: Less Sunda Islands (Sumba Island)
ETHNICITY: Melanesian (Sumbese)
DESCRIPTION: Ancestor Mask
MAKER: Unknown
FUNCTION: War Preparation (?)
AGE: ca. 1950s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: boar bristles; animal teeth

The Sumbese people of Sumba Island are a Melanesian-Austronesian people who continue to practice the Marapu animistic religion. This mask probably represents an ancestor of the maker and probably served the purpose of war preparation. However, very little is known about masking traditions in this region.

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TITLE: Maluku Islands Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Indonesia
SUBREGION: Maluku Islands
ETHNICITY: Melanesian
DESCRIPTION: Unknown Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Unknown
AGE: late 20th century
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: N/A

The Maluku (formerly Molucca) Islands are an archipelago of over one thousand islands inhabited by mixed Melanesian and Austronesian peoples. Since Indonesian independence and failed attempts to form various independent republics, they have formed two provinces of the Republic of Indonesia.  Very little is known about the masked ceremonies of the Maluku Islands or of this mask in particular.

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TITLE: Baga Ancestor Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Guinea
ETHNICITY: Baga
DESCRIPTION: Ancestor Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Unknown
AGE: ca. 1940s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: N/A

The Baga people of the Guinea swamp lands traditionally maintained animist beliefs revolving around a creator god named Kanu, until most were converted to Islam following the introduction of colonialism in West Africa. For a period, the Baga mingled Islamic with animist traditions.  They were governed by traditional lineages and the Simo Initiation Society.  Their best known masks from this period were relatively abstract. Large shoulder masks (N’mba) representing women, and or tall snake spirits (Bansonyi) were used in Simo Society initiation rituals, funerals, weddings, and other major social events.

At independence in 1958, the new Islamic-Marxist Guinea government tried to extinguish Baga cultural identity, and masking traditions all but disappeared until 1984, when a coup liberalized the country. Many members of Baga society began reintroducing animist rituals, but much of the old culture has been lost. Virtually nothing is known about ancestor masks such as this one.

For more on Baga masking traditions, see Frederick Lamp, Art of the Baga: A Drama of Cultural Reinvention (New York: Museum for African Art, 1996).

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