TITLE: Little Kid (Dziekciorza) Kolędowania Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Poland
ETHNICITY: Polish
DESCRIPTION: Mask representing a child
CATALOG ID: EUPO001
MAKER: Unknown maker, probably in Kamesznica
CEREMONY: Kolędowania (New Year’s Caroling)
AGE: 1990s
MAIN MATERIAL: linden wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; felt hat; leather strap; hardware; cotton decorations; elastic straps

Kolędowania is a tradition of new year’s caroling in Poland. But in parts of southern and western Poland around the Żywiec region, the tradition involves more than going from house to house singing Christmas songs.  Troupes of masked and costumed dancers appear at each house to beg for money and food in exchange for the songs. The precise cast differs from town to town, but in general it involves a stock set of characters that include horses, Jewish merchants, one or more Roma, devils, bears, and a personification of Death. It may also involve other characters from around town, such as potters, chimneysweeps, police, blacksmiths, and telephone operators. The groups can include up to 50 or more characters who dance and act out dramas for the benefit of the village. Only men and boys may participate in the dance-drama. Before 1939, only unmarried youths were allowed to participate, but since that time married men have been included as well.

In the towns of Cisiec and Milowka, for example, the leader will approach each house to ask for food or money on New Year’s Eve. This character may be unmasked to avoid frightening children in the house, and may represent a Roma. The remainder of the troupe sings and dances a drama involving a number of horses, which are characters in body costumes and huge hats representing strength and vitality. The horses are tended by a masked Roma carrying a whip. Four devils (two black and two red), two bears (a dark and a light), 10 Jewish merchants, 10 characters called macidula or sznurkosz, and various characters representing occupations dance before the houses. The macidula represents an unmarried, pregnant woman, and so may carry a doll representing a child and wear rags to show her poverty. In some towns, she carries a stuffed rabbit with which she strikes villagers for good luck. In some towns, there is also a bride character, or a female Roma, an insurance salesman, or other characters. In the drama, the horses eventually become exhausted, and Death comes to carry them away. But the devils fight off Death while the Roma revives the horses, symbolizing the protection of the village and its prosperity. The entire proceeding is accompanied by a small band whose configuration varies by place, but generally includes a drum, a rattle staff with cymbals, and several Slovakian instruments known as “heligonka,” a form of diatonic button accordion.

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TITLE: Salampasu Mukinka Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Democratic Republic of Congo
ETHNICITY: Salampasu
DESCRIPTION: Mukinka Mask
CATALOG ID: AFCD023
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: adult initiation; funeral; secret society
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: copper sheet; wicker; kaolin clay

The Salampasu people are a small ethnic group living on the frontier between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola. They are historically known as fierce warriors and successful hunters, governed by a hierarchical organization of chiefs in concert with the warrior’s society (mugongo).

Masks are used in adult initation ceremonies and can only be worn by initiated males.  Some, such as the kasangu mask, can be worn only by a male who has killed an enemy and has become a member of the Ibuku society. Such persons may also wear the mukinka mask, which, unlike other masks, is danced at funerals of important persons. The valuable copper coating signifies that the mask represents a chief.

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TITLE: Devil (Diabeł) Kolędowania Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Poland
ETHNICITY: Polish
DESCRIPTION: Mask of Black Devil
CATALOG ID: EUPO002
MAKER: Franciszek Kupczak (Żabnica, 1929-2023)
CEREMONY: Kolędowania (New Year’s Caroling)
AGE: 1984
MAIN MATERIAL: linden wood
OTHER MATERIALS: sheep leather and wool; goat horns; paint; metal hardware; elastic straps; glue; foam rubber

Kolędowania is a tradition of new year’s caroling in Poland. But in parts of southern and western Poland around the Żywiec region, the tradition involves more than going from house to house singing Christmas songs.  Troupes of masked and costumed dancers appear at each house to beg for money and food in exchange for the songs. The precise cast differs from town to town, but in general it involves a stock set of characters that include horses, Jewish merchants, one or more Roma, devils, bears, and a personification of Death. It may also involve other characters from around town, such as potters, chimneysweeps, police, blacksmiths, and telephone operators. The groups can include up to 50 or more characters who dance and act out dramas for the benefit of the village. Only men and boys may participate in the dance-drama. Before 1939, only unmarried youths were allowed to participate, but since that time married men have been included as well.

In the towns of Cisiec and Milowka, for example, the leader will approach each house to ask for food or money on New Year’s Eve. This character may be unmasked to avoid frightening children in the house, and may represent a Roma. The remainder of the troupe sings and dances a drama involving a number of horses, which are characters in body costumes and huge hats representing strength and vitality. The horses are tended by a masked Roma carrying a whip. Four devils (two black and two red), two bears (a dark and a light), 10 Jewish merchants, 10 characters called macidula or sznurkosz, and various characters representing occupations dance before the houses. The macidula represents an unmarried, pregnant woman, and so may carry a doll representing a child and wear rags to show her poverty. In some towns, she carries a stuffed rabbit with which she strikes villagers for good luck. In some towns, there is also a bride character, or a female Roma, an insurance salesman, or other characters. In the drama, the horses eventually become exhausted, and Death comes to carry them away. But the devils fight off Death while the Roma revives the horses, symbolizing the protection of the village and its prosperity. The entire proceeding is accompanied by a small band whose configuration varies by place, but generally includes a drum, a rattle staff with cymbals, and several Slovakian instruments known as “heligonka,” a form of diatonic button accordion.

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TITLE: Jew (Żyd) Kolędowania Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Poland
ETHNICITY: Polish
DESCRIPTION: Mask of Jewish Merchant
CATALOG ID: EUPO003
MAKER (Mask): Grzegorz Kuśnierz (Cisiec, 1973- )
MAKER (Hat): Pavel Sleziak (Cisiec, 1986- )
CEREMONY: Kolędowania (New Year’s Caroling)
AGE: 2014
MAIN MATERIAL: linden wood
OTHER MATERIALS: sheep leather and wool; dyed cotton yarn; paint; polyester; plastic glasses; plexiglass and paper hat; glue; plastic decorations; cotton decorations; foam rubber; elastic straps; stitching

Kolędowania is a tradition of new year’s caroling in Poland. But in parts of southern and western Poland around the Żywiec region, the tradition involves more than going from house to house singing Christmas songs.  Troupes of masked and costumed dancers appear at each house to beg for money and food in exchange for the songs. The precise cast differs from town to town, but in general it involves a stock set of characters that include horses, Jewish merchants, one or more Roma, devils, bears, and a personification of Death. It may also involve other characters from around town, such as potters, chimneysweeps, police, blacksmiths, and telephone operators. The groups can include up to 50 or more characters who dance and act out dramas for the benefit of the village. Only men and boys may participate in the dance-drama. Before 1939, only unmarried youths were allowed to participate, but since that time married men have been included as well.

In the towns of Cisiec and Milowka, for example, the leader will approach each house to ask for food or money on New Year’s Eve. This character may be unmasked to avoid frightening children in the house, and may represent a Roma. The remainder of the troupe sings and dances a drama involving a number of horses, which are characters in body costumes and huge hats representing strength and vitality. The horses are tended by a masked Roma carrying a whip. Four devils (two black and two red), two bears (a dark and a light), 10 Jewish merchants, 10 characters called macidula or sznurkosz, and various characters representing occupations dance before the houses. The macidula represents an unmarried, pregnant woman, and so may carry a doll representing a child and wear rags to show her poverty. In some towns, she carries a stuffed rabbit with which she strikes villagers for good luck. In some towns, there is also a bride character, or a female Roma, an insurance salesman, or other characters. In the drama, the horses eventually become exhausted, and Death comes to carry them away. But the devils fight off Death while the Roma revives the horses, symbolizing the protection of the village and its prosperity. The entire proceeding is accompanied by a small band whose configuration varies by place, but generally includes a drum, a rattle staff with cymbals, and several Slovakian instruments known as “heligonka,” a form of diatonic button accordion.

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TITLE: Cajun Mardi Gras
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: United States of America
SUB-REGION: Acadiana, Louisiana
ETHNICITY: Cajun
DESCRIPTION: Cajun-Style Mardi Gras Abstract Face Mask
CATALOG ID: NAUS089
MAKER: Chris Raymond (Metairie, Louisiana, 1964- )
CEREMONY: Courir de Mardi Gras
AGE: 2024
MAIN MATERIAL: steel wire mesh
OTHER MATERIALS: dyed cotton cloth; dyed synthetic cloth; cotton batting; glue; paint; elastic band

In Catholic practice, Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) is the last day of celebration of Carnival before the fasting period of Lent. In the Acadiana country of southern Louisiana, the descendants of French Canadian immigrants known as “Cajuns” (short for “Acadians”) celebrate Mardi Gras in a manner quite different from the better known Carnival of New Orleans.  The Courir de Mardi Gras (Mardi Gras parade) occurs in most towns of Cajun country only on Mardi Gras itself.

Masqueraders wear full or partial wire mesh masks and quilted suits with tall, conical hats covered in colorful fabric.  They either ride from farm to farm on horseback or drive as a group in trucks with an unmasked leader wearing the traditional Mardi Gras colors of green, purple, and gold.  When they reach a farm, the captain, who carries a whip in one hand and a white flag in the other, approaches the farmer and asks: “Le Mardi Gras demande votre permission pour visiter ta maison” (“The Mardi Gras requests permission to visit your house”), or words to that effect. Upon assent, the revelers descend and run or crawl toward the house, singing a begging song, then exploding into pranks and comedic antics while the captain tries to subdue them with his whip. The only way to make them leave is to donate gifts or money, traditionally a chicken for the evening gumbo, in which the farmer is invited to partake.

For more on the Acadian Carnival celebration, see the excellent book by Carl Lindahl and Carolyn Ware, Cajun Mardi Gras Masks (University Press of Mississippi, 1997).


A short video featuring Cajun Mardi Gras in Eunice, Louisiana, 2019.

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TITLE: Cajun Mardi Gras
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: United States of America
SUB-REGION: Acadiana, Louisiana
ETHNICITY: Cajun
DESCRIPTION: Cajun-Style Mardi Gras Skull Mask
CATALOG ID: NAUS088
MAKER: Chris Raymond (Metairie, Louisiana, 1964- )
CEREMONY: Courir de Mardi Gras
AGE: 2024
MAIN MATERIAL: steel wire mesh
OTHER MATERIALS: dyed synthetic cloth; plastic decorations; glue; paint; elastic band

In Catholic practice, Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) is the last day of celebration of Carnival before the fasting period of Lent. In the Acadiana country of southern Louisiana, the descendants of French Canadian immigrants known as “Cajuns” (short for “Acadians”) celebrate Mardi Gras in a manner quite different from the better known Carnival of New Orleans.  The Courir de Mardi Gras (Mardi Gras parade) occurs in most towns of Cajun country only on Mardi Gras itself.

Masqueraders wear full or partial wire mesh masks and quilted suits with tall, conical hats covered in colorful fabric.  They either ride from farm to farm on horseback or drive as a group in trucks with an unmasked leader wearing the traditional Mardi Gras colors of green, purple, and gold.  When they reach a farm, the captain, who carries a whip in one hand and a white flag in the other, approaches the farmer and asks: “Le Mardi Gras demande votre permission pour visiter ta maison” (“The Mardi Gras requests permission to visit your house”), or words to that effect. Upon assent, the revelers descend and run or crawl toward the house, singing a begging song, then exploding into pranks and comedic antics while the captain tries to subdue them with his whip. The only way to make them leave is to donate gifts or money, traditionally a chicken for the evening gumbo, in which the farmer is invited to partake.

For more on the Acadian Carnival celebration, see the excellent book by Carl Lindahl and Carolyn Ware, Cajun Mardi Gras Masks (University Press of Mississippi, 1997).


A short video featuring Cajun Mardi Gras in Eunice, Louisiana, 2019.

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TITLE: Cajun Mardi Gras
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: United States of America
SUB-REGION: Acadiana, Louisiana
ETHNICITY: Cajun
DESCRIPTION: Cajun-Style Mardi Gras Mask with Potato Nose
CATALOG ID: NAUS087
MAKER: Chris Raymond (Metairie, Louisiana, 1964- )
CEREMONY: Courir de Mardi Gras
AGE: 2024
MAIN MATERIAL: steel wire mesh
OTHER MATERIALS: burlap cloth; brass bells; plastic decorations; glue; paint; elastic band

In Catholic practice, Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) is the last day of celebration of Carnival before the fasting period of Lent. In the Acadiana country of southern Louisiana, the descendants of French Canadian immigrants known as “Cajuns” (short for “Acadians”) celebrate Mardi Gras in a manner quite different from the better known Carnival of New Orleans.  The Courir de Mardi Gras (Mardi Gras parade) occurs in most towns of Cajun country only on Mardi Gras itself.

Masqueraders wear full or partial wire mesh masks and quilted suits with tall, conical hats covered in colorful fabric.  They either ride from farm to farm on horseback or drive as a group in trucks with an unmasked leader wearing the traditional Mardi Gras colors of green, purple, and gold.  When they reach a farm, the captain, who carries a whip in one hand and a white flag in the other, approaches the farmer and asks: “Le Mardi Gras demande votre permission pour visiter ta maison” (“The Mardi Gras requests permission to visit your house”), or words to that effect. Upon assent, the revelers descend and run or crawl toward the house, singing a begging song, then exploding into pranks and comedic antics while the captain tries to subdue them with his whip. The only way to make them leave is to donate gifts or money, traditionally a chicken for the evening gumbo, in which the farmer is invited to partake.

For more on the Acadian Carnival celebration, see the excellent book by Carl Lindahl and Carolyn Ware, Cajun Mardi Gras Masks (University Press of Mississippi, 1997).


A short video featuring Cajun Mardi Gras in Eunice, Louisiana, 2019.

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TITLE: Cajun Mardi Gras
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: United States of America
SUB-REGION: Acadiana, Louisiana
ETHNICITY: Cajun
DESCRIPTION: Mesh Mardi Gras Mask with Corn Cob Nose
CATALOG ID: NAUS086
MAKER: Kindy Devillier (Eunice, Louisiana, 1975- )
CEREMONY: Courir de Mardi Gras
AGE: 2024
MAIN MATERIAL: steel wire mesh
OTHER MATERIALS: dyed cotton cloth; sweetgum balls; dried corn cob; whitetail deer leather and fur; dyed felt; elastic band; glue; paint

In Catholic practice, Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) is the last day of celebration of Carnival before the fasting period of Lent. In the Acadiana country of southern Louisiana, the descendants of French Canadian immigrants known as “Cajuns” (short for “Acadians”) celebrate Mardi Gras in a manner quite different from the better known Carnival of New Orleans.  The Courir de Mardi Gras (Mardi Gras parade) occurs in most towns of Cajun country only on Mardi Gras itself.

Masqueraders wear full or partial wire mesh masks and quilted suits with tall, conical hats covered in colorful fabric.  They either ride from farm to farm on horseback or drive as a group in trucks with an unmasked leader wearing the traditional Mardi Gras colors of green, purple, and gold.  When they reach a farm, the captain, who carries a whip in one hand and a white flag in the other, approaches the farmer and asks: “Le Mardi Gras demande votre permission pour visiter ta maison” (“The Mardi Gras requests permission to visit your house”), or words to that effect. Upon assent, the revelers descend and run or crawl toward the house, singing a begging song, then exploding into pranks and comedic antics while the captain tries to subdue them with his whip. The only way to make them leave is to donate gifts or money, traditionally a chicken for the evening gumbo, in which the farmer is invited to partake.

For more on the Acadian Carnival celebration, see the excellent book by Carl Lindahl and Carolyn Ware, Cajun Mardi Gras Masks (University Press of Mississippi, 1997).


A short video featuring Cajun Mardi Gras in Eunice, Louisiana, 2019.

:

TITLE: Cajun Mardi Gras
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: United States of America
SUB-REGION: Acadiana, Louisiana
ETHNICITY: Cajun
DESCRIPTION: Mesh Mardi Gras Mask with Okra Nose
CATALOG ID: NAUS085
MAKER: Kindy Devillier (Eunice, Louisiana, 1975- )
CEREMONY: Courir de Mardi Gras
AGE: 2024
MAIN MATERIAL: steel wire mesh
OTHER MATERIALS: dyed cotton cloth; glass eyes; synthetic cork; dyed felt; elastic band; glue; paint

In Catholic practice, Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) is the last day of celebration of Carnival before the fasting period of Lent. In the Acadiana country of southern Louisiana, the descendants of French Canadian immigrants known as “Cajuns” (short for “Acadians”) celebrate Mardi Gras in a manner quite different from the better known Carnival of New Orleans.  The Courir de Mardi Gras (Mardi Gras parade) occurs in most towns of Cajun country only on Mardi Gras itself.

Masqueraders wear full or partial wire mesh masks and quilted suits with tall, conical hats covered in colorful fabric.  They either ride from farm to farm on horseback or drive as a group in trucks with an unmasked leader wearing the traditional Mardi Gras colors of green, purple, and gold.  When they reach a farm, the captain, who carries a whip in one hand and a white flag in the other, approaches the farmer and asks: “Le Mardi Gras demande votre permission pour visiter ta maison” (“The Mardi Gras requests permission to visit your house”), or words to that effect. Upon assent, the revelers descend and run or crawl toward the house, singing a begging song, then exploding into pranks and comedic antics while the captain tries to subdue them with his whip. The only way to make them leave is to donate gifts or money, traditionally a chicken for the evening gumbo, in which the farmer is invited to partake.

For more on the Acadian Carnival celebration, see the excellent book by Carl Lindahl and Carolyn Ware, Cajun Mardi Gras Masks (University Press of Mississippi, 1997).


A short video featuring Cajun Mardi Gras in Eunice, Louisiana, 2019.

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TITLE: Moko Jumby Mask
TYPE: hood mask
GENERAL REGION: Caribbean
COUNTRY: United States of America
SUBREGION: U.S. Virgin Islands
ETHNICITY: African American
DESCRIPTION: Traditional Moko Jumbies Hood and Face Mask
CATALOG ID: NAUV001
MAKER: Willard John (St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, 1951- )
CEREMONY: New Years/Carnival
AGE: 2020
MAIN MATERIAL: dyed cotton cloth; metal wire mesh
OTHER MATERIALS: stitching; leather; metal wire; metal strips; cowrie shells; elastic bands; paint; adhesive

The “Carnival” of the U.S. Virgin Islands actually occurs the week after New Year’s Day and lasts for several days. On the island of St. Croix, the Carnival formally lasts three days.  The first day is J’ouvert, meaning “I open,” and essentially consists of a large street party. The second day is a children’s parade followed by a music festival, and the last day is an adult parade, followed by fireworks.  The parades include celebrants of many types, the most unique of which are the Moko Jumbies, or masked stilt dancers.  Moko Jumbies are danced throughout the eastern Caribbean islands, and represent the lineage of masked stilt-dancing traditions brought to the Caribbean by slaves from northwest Africa. The African mukudji wear wood masks and costumes made from cloth and raffia fiber, dancing energetically and acrobatically to drums for the purposes of adult initiation and protection of the village. The best known mukudji are the Baule and Dan people of Côte d’Ivoire. Modern Moko Jumbies dance to Caribbean music purely for entertainment, but the ancestral significance of the practice is never far from the dancer’s mind. Today, cloth masks are much more common than traditional wire mesh masks, which somewhat inhibit vision.

For more on the Moko Jumbies, see Robert Wyndham Nicholls, The Jumbies’ Playing Ground (Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2012).

Click above to watch a short documentary film about the Moko Jumbies of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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