TITLE: Carnival Character
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Switzerland
SUBREGION: Lucerne
ETHNICITY: Swiss
DESCRIPTION: Character Mask
MAKER: Toni Meier, Kriens (1941- )
CEREMONY: Fasnacht (Carnival)
AGE: 2011
MAIN MATERIAL: linden wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; lacquer; dyed cotton cap

Fasnacht is what the Swiss call Carnival.  In many towns in Switzerland, Austria, southern Germany, and northern Italy, local folk don elaborate masks and costumes to parade through the town.  Different Swiss towns have variations on the parade, such as Fasnacht of Basel, the Tschäggättä of Lötschental, or the Rabadan of Bellinzona.

Although traditional masked Carnival is no longer celebrated in most of Lucerne, in the town of Kriens, masquerade using masks called Muur or Hübeli still plays a role. Two types of masked are typically used in this region, satirical character masks such as this one, which can represent either sex. Character masks come in many different types, such as the Wöschwyb (washerwoman) and Alter (old man). The other type are Schreckmasken (fright masks) representing scary men, known as the Krienser Deckel (Kriens head) and Buuremaa (farmer).

Unfortunately, the best book on Swiss masking traditions is available in German only: Albert Bärtsch, Holzmasken: Fasnachts- und Maskenbrauchtum in der Schweiz, in Süddeutschland und Österreich (AT Verlag 1993).

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TITLE: Flums Carnival Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Switzerland
SUBREGION: Flums
ETHNICITY: Swiss
DESCRIPTION: Alte Frau (Old Woman) Mask
MAKER: Marcus DeFlorin, Flums (1959- )
CEREMONY: Fasnacht (carnival)
AGE: 2011
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; wool hair; cloth

Fasnacht is what the Tyrolean Swiss call Carnival.  In many towns in Austria, southern Germany, Switzerland, and northern Italy, local folk don elaborate masks and costumes to parade through the town.  Different towns have variations on the parade, such as the Schemenlaufen of Imst, the Schellerlaufen of Nassereith, and the Muller and Matschgerer of Innsbruck, Austria.

In Flums, carnival masks have a distinctive pear shape and tend to have a satirical purpose. The Flums style has been highly influential in neighboring villages.

Unfortunately, the best book on Swiss masking traditions is available in German only: Albert Bärtsch, Holzmasken: Fasnachts- und Maskenbrauchtum in der Schweiz, in Süddeutschland und Österreich (AT Verlag 1993).

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TITLE: Waggis Carnival Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Switzerland
SUBREGION: Basel
ETHNICITY: Swiss
DESCRIPTION: Waggis (Alsation) Carnival Helmet Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Fasnacht (Carnival)
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; plastic hair; wool hat

Fasnacht is what the Tyrolean Swiss call Carnival.  In many towns in Austria, southern Germany, Switzerland, and northern Italy, local folk don elaborate masks and costumes to parade through the town.  Different towns have variations on the parade, such as the Schemenlaufen of Imst, the Schellerlaufen of Nassereith, and the Muller and Matschgerer of Innsbruck, Austria.

In Basel, Switzerland, masks are almost all made of paper maché and take a helmet form. Armies of costumed clowns, musicians, and dancers, called cliques, parade around town in uniform mask styles for 72 nearly continuous hours on the Monday following Ash Wednesday. The paraders must wear their Larven (masks) throughout the parade and are expected never to remove the mask in order to identify themselves.  They throw confetti at crowd members with such proliferation that it blankets the streets.

Although there is a great deal of innovation and creativity in mask styles, there are certain styles that tend to reappear annually. This mask, known as Waggis, represents a big-nosed, frizzy-haired clown, who wears wooden clogs, a blue shirt, and a red neckerchief. He is a prankster who parodies the Alsatian farmers who formerly came to Basel market days to sell their produce (Waggis literally means a person from Alsace in Basel dialect). It was worn for several decades and retired after the 2010 parade.

Other common characters include the Alti Dante (old aunt), Dummbeeter (trumpetist) and Pierrot (a sad clown from the late Italian Commedia dell’Arte, known for his white and black makeup).

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