TITLE: Ticuna Shaman Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Brazil
SUBREGION: Amazonas
ETHNICITY: Ticuna
DESCRIPTION: Shaman Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Adult Initiation
AGE: ca. 1990s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: bark cloth; plant fiber; pigment

The Ticuna people of the Amazon rain forest populate large parts of the Amazonas state of Brazil, as well as parts of Colombia and Peru.  Brazil finally recognized the Ticuna right to control over some of their historic lands in 1990.  Men make and use all Ticuna masks, are used primarily in adult initiation rituals for girls and in funerals.  Funeral masks always represent animals that the deceased would want to hunt in the next life.  Human masks are part of a full body suit made of tapa (cloth made from pounded tree bark) and are danced at an elaborate ceremony for the initiation of girls into adulthood.  This specific mask was almost certainly made for the tourist trade.

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TITLE: Carnival Character
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Unknown
ETHNICITY: Mayan
DESCRIPTION: Character Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 1950s
MAIN MATERIAL: hardwood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The Carnival is celebrated throughout Guatemala with masks having religious, historical, and political themes, but masks representing animals or poking fun at prominent villagers are also common.  This mask, skillfully carved from hardwood in the 1950s to represent a furious bearded man, uses subtle paints in a style very uncommon in Guatemala. It is unknown whether the maker was targeting a specific individual or merely trying to provoke laughs by the contrast between the angry character and the merry atmosphere of Carnival.

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TITLE: Diablesa
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Bolivia
SUBREGION: Oruro
ETHNICITY: Quechua and Aymara
DESCRIPTION: Diablesa Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival (La Diablada)
AGE: Late 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: tin sheet
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; polyester fibers; foam rubber

The Diablada (Dance of the Devils) is an annual ceremony in several towns in the Altiplano region of Bolivia, Peru, and northern Chile, usually incorporated into Carnival.  The dance includes both male and female devils dancing in a group led by the Archangel Michael.

This mask represents a diablesa (female devil), made from recycled tin, spray painted and hand finished. The costume of the diablesa in Oruro is usually elaborately decorated and somewhat revealing, although the character may be danced by a man or a woman.

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: Vampiro (Diablo)
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Michoacán
ETHNICITY: Purépecha
DESCRIPTION: Vampiro (Diablo) Mask
MAKER: Federico Eduardo Sierra Morales, Tocuaro
CEREMONY: Pastorela
AGE: 2015
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The Pastorela drama of Michoacán reenacts the the mythical journey of the three wise men to visit Jesus of Nazareth at his birth.  It is commonly performed around Christmastime and involves several masked characters, including hermits, Maringuilla (Mary), comic characters, and the Diablo (Devil). The Devil plays a key dramatic role as he attempts to impede the wise men from reaching Bethlehem.

The maker of this specific mask, master artisan Federico Sierra of Tocuaro, chose to name this mask Vampiro (vampire), but it represents the Devil character in the play.

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TITLE: Waq’ollo Mask for Alcalde
TYPE: hood mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Peru
ETHNICITY: Quechua
DESCRIPTION: Waq’ollo for Alcalde (Mayor) of the Qhapaq Q’olla
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Qoyllur Rit’i; Corpus Christi
AGE: 1940s
MAIN MATERIAL: dyed and knitted lama wool
OTHER MATERIALS: N/A

In the Altiplano of Bolivia and Peru, the Quechua and Aymara descendants of the Incans still celebrate Qoyllur Rit’i, the Snow Star Festival in late May or early June to hale the reappearance of the Pleiades constellation and the harvest. Although the Catholic Church has attempted to co-opt the event, it maintains its essentially pre-Spanish conquest character.  Pilgrims from around Peru assemble in the Sinakara Valley in various costumes to dance in celebration. The Qhapaq Q’olla (“mighty Indian”) is one such character, dancing in the waq’ollo mask shown here with a hat, woven sling and a dried vicuña skin. Supposedly they represent a merchant who is half human and half llama, and who brings goods to the Cusco region for sale from the jungle and Paucartambo region, such as pisco liquor. Their roles are primarily that of clown, but they also dance and sing to the Virgin of Paucartambo. They sometimes wear a square flat hat called an aqarapi, and dance in a group.  The group is composed of a Mayor (alcalde), who carries a wooden staff of authority and a black crucifix on his mask, as here; and his wife (la Imilla); a child (q’ollita); two captains; a llama herder (llamero), who wanders into the crowd to pretend to sell his goods; and a group of q’ollas dancing in two rows.  The imilla has a face covered by a black veil.  Qhapaq Q’olla also dance at Corpus Christi parades in Cusco and other religious celebrations.

The q’ollas, aligned according to their age, dance together, led by the captains. Sometimes children called chanako accompany them as well. The musical ensemble that accompanies them consists of a violin, an accordion, a bass drum and several Quena performers.  The q’ollas are always men born in Paucartambo. The costume consists of a flat, rectangular hat (aqarapi) decorated with sequins, old coins or beads; the waq’ollo; a lliclla skin made of vicuña wool, and the qepi that contains a young dead vicuña.  the dance, the collas sing Quechua songs about their commercial activity, their journey to Cusco, and their protective saints.


Click above to watch a short documentary on Corpus Christi in Cusco, Peru.

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TITLE: Señor de Naranja Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Michoacán
ETHNICITY: Purépecha
DESCRIPTION: Señor de Naranja
MAKER: Victoriano Salgado Morales (1920-2012, Uruapan)
CEREMONY: Danza del Señor de Naranja
AGE: 1980
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: plaster; tin; maque paint; brass bells; polyester ribbons; steel hardware

The Señor de Naranja (Lord of Naranja) is an historical figure of the country of Zacapu, Michoacán. “Naranja” means orange in Spanish, but the term in this context is actually a corruption of the Purépecha “Naranxan,” the name of a region where the town Naranja de Tapia is now located. The character apparently represents the historical cacique or chief of the region, Ziranzirancámaro, around 1200 CE, and the dance retells the history of the Purépecha settlement of Michoacán.

According to the legend, a tribe of Purépecha people called the “Eagles” arrived in the mountains and demanded that the Señor de Naranja bring them incense and wood to burn on the altar of their fire god, Curicaveri. Over the opposition of his people, the Señor sent the offerings, as well as his sister to wed the leader of the Eagles (Ireticatame) and bear him a son, Sicuirancha, who eventually conquered Naranxan and Cumachen. The dance commemorates these events.

This mask was made by the renowned Victoriano Salgado, who was awarded the Michoacán State Eréndira Prize for the Arts in 2012, the year of his death.

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TITLE: Coyote Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Chichicastenango
ETHNICITY: Mayan (K’ich’e)
DESCRIPTION: Coyote Mask
MAKER: Ángel Ordoñez Ventura
CEREMONY: Baile de los Animalitos
AGE: ca. 1910
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint

The Baile de los Animalitos (Dance of the Little Animals), also called the Baile de los Animales, is an annual ceremony in several cities of central and southern Guatemala, usually during a holiday in honor of the town’s patron saint. The dance involves an angel, a hunter, and many different kinds of animals, including the coyote.  The dance probably predates the Spanish conquest, and involves many speeches by the animals relating to their characteristics, their role in the ecosystem, and (since colonization) their anomalous praise of the Virgin Mary. The hunter no longer hunts the animals in the modern rendition. After the speeches, they all dance to a marimba band.

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

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TITLE: Viejita
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Guerrero
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Viejita (Little Old Lady) Mask
MAKER: Martín Catalan Lazardo, Zumpango del Rio
CEREMONY: Danza de los Viejitos
AGE: 2009
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: leather ears; paint

Many parts of Mexico have a traditional Danza de los Viejitos (Dance of the Little Old Men), but it is most common in the state of Michoacán. The dance celebrates and pokes fun at village characters, with a special emphasis on older residents.  In some parts of Guerrero, however, a choreographed Viejitos (or Viejos) dance is performed to drums, rattles, shouts, and sometimes trumpets, with both old men and old women like this one performing. Some participants wear special masks resembling the elderly, like this one, while others merely wear their black masks from the dance of the Tlacololeros.

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TITLE: Tío Supay
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Bolivia
SUBREGION: Oruro
ETHNICITY: Quechua and Aymara
DESCRIPTION: Tío Supay Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: tin sheet
OTHER MATERIALS: glitter; dyed plant fiber; oil paint; foam rubber; LED lights and wiring

The Tío Supay (Uncle Supay) is the Incan god of death, whose worship predates the Spanish conquest. Incans and their descendants, the Quechua and Aymara peoples, prayed and made offerings to Supay to propitiate him. In most mines in the Bolivian and Peruvian Altoplano, a figure of Tío Supay would be seated deep in the shaft, and cigars, cigarettes, alcohol, food, and other offerings are left for him to protect the miners.

The Catholic colonizers objected to Supay, viewing the offerings as Devil worship, and so Supay came to be identified with the Christian Satan. His appearance morphed to resemble the Catholic Devil myth, and he plays the role of a demon opposed to the Archangel Michael in the Carnival parades of Oruro. Nonetheless, the worship of Supay continues, and most Aymara people deny any connection between Supay and the Catholic Devil.

This specific mask was made in the 1970s by a caretero (mask maker) in the Calle de los Andes, La Paz for use in the Oruro Carnival. Later, LED lights were added to the eyes with silicon glue in the 2000s to make the mask light up at night.

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: Mono (Monkey) Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Unknown
ETHNICITY: Mayan (K’ich’e)
DESCRIPTION: Mono Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Baile de los Animalitos; Baile del Venado
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: painted glass eyes; adhesive; oil-based paint

The Baile de los Animalitos (Dance of the Little Animals), also called the Baile de los Animales, is an annual ceremony in several cities of central and southern Guatemala, usually during a holiday in honor of the town’s patron saint. The dance involves an angel, a hunter, and many different kinds of animals, including the mono (monkey).  The dance probably predates the Spanish conquest, and involves many speeches by the animals relating to their characteristics, their role in the ecosystem, and (since colonization) their anomalous praise of the Virgin Mary. The hunter no longer hunts the animals in the modern rendition. After the speeches, they all dance to a marimba band.

The mono mask is also used in the Baile del Venado (Dance of the Deer).

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

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